REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 262

Revolt news 23/10/2008 Print (pdf) Version

1. National Grid to the rescue? (news261.1) No sooner had news261 gone out, than news came in of National Grid’s withdrawal of its objection to the Seamer windfarm proposal. NG is said to be in discussion with the developer Broadview. Too good to stay true! Stockton BC rejected the application 24 October on grounds of “insufficient information” relating to impact on highways and on species protected by law. That may of course be only a delaying rejection.

2. In response to news261.2 on the statement by Sense About Science, Professor Gerald Scott, long-standing Revolt member and an authority on polymer chemistry and free radicals, comments: “To distinguish between ionising and non-ionising radiation on the grounds that only ions cause biological damage is both simplistic and misleading. UV radiation is damaging because it produces neutral free radicals that are a major cause of disease in biological organisms. Furthermore there does not seem to be one chemist among the contributors who might understand the mechanisms of free radical formation, which as we have discussed previously frequently involves low energy excitation of atoms (particularly in transition metal complexes such as haematin) from a ground to an excited state that is quite different from breaking a carbon-carbon bond by high energy irradiation but can be equally damaging to cells.”

3. The WHO body IARC has released a routine statement about the Interphone multinational studies on the incidence of certain cancers in relation to mobile phone use. The 13-country combined analysis has not yet been published, but several individual studies have been. The statement recognises the peculiar reduction in certain cancers associated with low levels of use as “possibly reflecting participation bias or other methodological limitations”. It also recognises increased incidence of cancer with long-term use of the phone on the same side of the head, saying it “could either be causal or artifactual” (meaning recall bias). Several emerging methodological studies are described; so far they seem not to support an explanation by recall bias, but the statement stops short of saying this leaves causation as the most likely explanation. Download the report here

4. The Irish protest group NEPP (North East Pylon Pressure) has published a substantial expert review of underground cable (UGC) feasibility. The Askon Report was undertaken by a large multinational engineering consultancy with its specialist team based in Germany. The study is project-specific to the need and proposed routes in Ireland all the way from Meath near Dublin to Tyrone in Northern Ireland. It challenges the Irish government report published in the summer from desk research. No doubt the specific capacity requirements and the single-circuit nature of the overhead line (OHL) are important in the Askon Report firmly favouring UGC. But the detailed report will be of wide interest for other situations and countries. Download the report here

5. The EMF advisory group SAGE met on 14 October. It is expected to move on to power distribution systems, to create a science discussion group and to review costs of burying powerlines. In that last task, it will be important to take on board NEPP’s new expert Askon Report on UGC in Ireland. It was reported that the government is expected to respond to the SAGE Report by the end of this year and probably in November; that should include a response to the 60-metre corridor option.

6. Revolt’s AGM was held on 16 October by electronic communication. The Revolt committee had used this mode of communication during the year and found it helpful. The AGM was principally to despatch the usual formalities. It also commented on the developments in SAGE. The meeting called for SAGE to address “existing-existing” situations for powerlines and homes, in order to identify options for extreme cases. The Chairman’s Report is at APPENDIX A.

7. The important Europacables review of transmission line undergrounding was presented in evidence to the Beauly-Denny Inquiry last year (news229.4). Stirling Before Pylons has received an update at October 2008 in the light of many new developments in Europe. The update is pasted at APPENDIX B below. The UK is lagging behind other EU countries in both attitude to and achievement of significant undergrounding projects.

8. News just (21 Oct) in from Salzburg, Austria, is that new draft provincial legislation requires underground cable options to be considered for high voltage lines (above 110 kV) within 400 metres of settlements or 200 metres of single dwellings. This is similar to the Lower Saxony legislation. The Salzburg statement (in German) seems to require only consideration, not necessarily actual burial.

***** APPENDIX A Revolt Chairman’s Report 2008.

UK and EU grid developments this year continue to be driven by wind power policy, together with strategic EU networks policy. Several long-distance underground cable (UGC) solutions have progressed in the EU, in both HVDC and AC, with some supporting policy developments, notably the Lower Saxony legislation for UGC.

The Beauly-Denny 400kV proposal in Scotland is still undecided, after the long public inquiry in 2007. The proposed 400kV Irish interconnector and reinforcement of the Irish grid have moved the focus of concern across the Irish Sea. I have attended several meetings in Ireland both private and public. The Irish government commissioned an updated report on costs and feasibility of undergrounding, which was published this summer.

The UK Department of Health stakeholder advisory group (SAGE) on health issues from power-frequency EMFs has been in abeyance for some eighteen months, with a skeleton “Process Group” addressing its difficulties. The Main Group reconvenes 14 October with new facilitators. It is shaping up to retain its agreed Aim and to move on to power distribution systems. It is also likely to create a science discussion group and to review costs of burying powerlines. Government response is still awaited to the SAGE report of April 2007.

Several conferences on EMF have been held over the year. For example, I have taken part in the Children with Leukaemia conference in April, a European Environment Agency workshop in May, the Radiation Research Trust conference in September and a follow-on Institute of Physics conference. I have continued to work with Professor Denis Henshaw in publishing various notes and responses, and with Children with Leukaemia, and more recently the Radiation Research Trust. EMF science is rapidly advancing, in both power-frequency and telecoms ranges, though as yet there has been no change in official assessments.

Miscellaneous enquiries are regularly answered by Revolt by phone or email. Many concern effects of powerlines on health and property values. Others concern wayleave issues with transmission and distribution lines, including issues with National Grid gas pipelines. Some local issues go unreported as confidential negotiations are involved. There have been long-running disputes over electrical safety clearances, with both distribution and transmission lines. BERR has clarified its position of disregarding impacts on land neighbouring to powerlines. The FAQ section of the Revolt site has been extended to reflect developments.

Revolt’s web site continues to be very active. Over the last year, 22 issues of Revolt email news were circulated and uploaded. News and messages have been received through the year from many countries, including Australia, Canada, USA, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Austria and Israel, as well as the UK and Ireland.

Mike O’Carroll, Chairman


APPENDIX B Update on Transmission Line Developments across Europe- October 2008 (from Stirling Before Pylons)  


Mario Monti EU Coordinator recommended that around 60km of DC cables be laid (25km in France & 37km in Spain) of the planned interconnector to Spain. This position was accepted at a Franco-Spanish summit on 27th June and the competent authorities and electricity grid companies in the two countries have be called upon to take the necessary steps for immediate implementation. This project has been held up for 20 years with undergrounding being dismissed as too costly or not technically possible. Monti was able to get a deal sorted out within months and the European Commission has stated that this approach may now be applied to several other difficult projects in Europe.  


The Dutch government and TSO (Tennet) have decided that two sections of the strategic 380kV Randstad transmission line in The Hague area will go underground. Final length of cable expected to be about 10km).Tennet state that this will a challenge but is a "Responsible and Innovative Cable Installation" using "Proven Technology". They say the cost difference is around Euro 10m/km.  


The legislation (inc Articles 1&2) in Lower Saxony restricting OHLs within 200/400m of buildings/homes has now been put before the cabinet at the Federal Level with a proposal that 50% of 4 new priority lines in Lower Saxony and Thuringen will be put underground. These lines are over 500km in length and will lead to almost 250km of the lines being put underground. The additional costs are expected to add 1 Euro/year to household bills (costs will be split across all German consumers). There is also a proposal for a HVDC cable from north to south to take offshore wind power to consumers in the south. This will be subject to a study by Dena.

Two German states (Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemburg) submitted a proposal to the Bundesrat to delete Articles 1&2 but this was defeated at a plenary hearing on 19th September. The legislation now moves to the Bunderstag and is due to be voted on in mid December.  


An independent review of undergrounding in relation to the Cavan Meath and Tyrone Cavan 400kV lines was released by the Irish government in July 2008. The report was carried out by Ecofys Berlin, Golder Associates and Prof Brakelmann of the University of Essen, who has worked on a number of transmission projects in recent years, including work for E.ON in Germany.  

The report draws heavily on recent studies carried out in Austria & Germany and on the 2005 Jacobs Babtie report re Beauly/Denny in Scotland, which was attacked by SSE/PB Power at the Beauly Denny PLI for only being desktop research.  

There are some positive statements:

  • They conclude that the capital cost ratio for 1700MVA UGC/OHL is 5 times and 3 times when life costs considered.  
  • They show that for 3000MVA, UGC costs have been reported in Austria at around Euro 5/km (£4m/km) far less than suggested by PB Power at the Beauly Denny PLI.  
  • They agree that recent legislative events in Germany could lead to significant undergrounding.  
  • They make reference to Eirgrid's own statistics that show there is a 4 year lead time for UGCs and 7 years for OHLs.
  • Even assuming full load conditions, the impact of UGCs on soil temperature is strictly local and very limited. There are some notable omissions:  
  • No reference is made to the recent Spain/France agreement to underground 60km of the planned interconnector or to the decision by the Dutch government/Tennet to underground >10km of the strategic Randstad 380kV line.  

There are some negative statements:

  • The report states that "most existing UGCs are not representative of transmission" meaning that no case has actually resulted in the realisation of an UGC instead of OHL of the size which may be applied to future plans in Ireland.  
  • They state that the felling of trees/removal of vegetation is greater for UGCs than OHLs - a point that was proved false at the Beauly-Denny Public Inquiry as OHLs require a wider right of way.   
  • They state that exposures from buried cables are far less than OHLs and can be practically eliminated. This is acknowledged in the report’s conclusions but the government press release tells a different story by pointing out that exposure to magnetic fields may be higher directly above an underground cable than under overhead lines..  
  • The report states that the forced outage rate of UGC transmission is expected to be 1-2 times the order of magnitude higher than an OHL, but in their covering letter to the government and in the Irish govt press release it is stated that "Underground cables can be expected to have forced outage rates which are at least 10 times greater than that of overhead lines". In their view "Underground cables are therefore severely limited in terms of transmission adequacy and are not equivalent to overhead lines in terms of security of electricity supply". This is not a view shared by the Dutch government or Tennet in their recent press releases, who state that the "international transmission grid is affected by few failures". For above-ground grids as well as cable, the risk of failure is extremely small and in the same order of magnitude".


The debate on the Salzburg line will continue for some months and senior politicians in the Salzburg have asked the European Commission to appoint a “Coordinator” to try and solve the impasse.  


The Upper House of the Swiss Parliament is to ask the Office of Energy to develop criteria for making decisions on whether to bury cables with the aim of avoiding lengthy and costly delays. It was pointed out that two projects remain unfinished since 1976 and 1980 and it is believed burial will enable the projects to be completed. A draft of the criteria is expected in the Autumn and the Swiss may have a referendum on the subject.

Impact of Credit Crunch/Economic Slowdown

Price of copper has fallen over 30% since August to $5400 tonne (aluminium has fallen about 20%) which will have a big impact on the cost assumptions presented by SSE at the PLI. An investor’s presentation by National Grid on 7th October predicted falling copper prices in real terms over the next 3-4 years.





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