REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive
and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 263

Revolt news  14/11/2008 Print (pdf) Version

1. Objectors north of the border to the Irish interconnector have organised effectively, especially in getting all landowners on side. John Woods writes:

“We have a group of people who meet at least monthly and are active in keeping all affected householders on the proposed route informed of the news etc. we organised all landowners through whose land the proposed inter-connector would be routed, to sign a letter of authority to appoint William Anderson and myself to represent them in all discussions regarding the proposed inter-connector.

We have presented copies of the 80 letters of authority which cover a two year period. Our brief from all farmers is to oppose the overhead connector. We have 100% of the farmers (landowners) signed up. This prevents any discussion with or approach with N.I.E to any farmer. As yet no planning permission has been submitted. We believe it may be lodged after New Year.

We have been preparing to brief at least 1000 affected householders along the proposed route to send legally acceptable letters of objection when planning is submitted. If the planning proposal is then sent to a public enquiry that is when the real work begins. ”

2. The group in NI (above) is called Safe Energy for Armagh/Tyrone (SEAT). Its website is

3. The SEAT web site also includes a press release earlier this year about underground cables (UGC), when IMERA made a submission to the Irish government, saying ‘there will only be a marginal difference in cost’ in putting the cables underground. The full transcript can be found on the NEPP site under news for 16 May. IMERA expects to undertake the Ireland-Wales interconnector. It is a joint venture with ABB (one of the world's largest companies). The transcript deserves to be considered along with the Ecofys/Golder government report and the Askon report for NEPP (news262.4/5), plus the Europacables update (news262.7); that makes three new UGC reviews from Ireland plus the update for Scotland.

4. Brenda Short writes: The EU Environmental Liability Directive 2004 was due to be transposed into national law by all member states by 30th April 2007. It is now due to come into UK law (late) in December 2008. I wonder whether in the future it can be applied  to EMFs from powerlines and mobile phone masts etc. The lead Govt. Dept. is DEFRA.  The Environment Agency gives a simple explanation of how the Directive will work.

5. Research results by Huss et al (online in American J Epidem, 5 November 2008) from the Swiss National Cohort Study show an association of Alzheimer’s disease with residential proximity to high-voltage powerlines. Abstract The association becomes stronger with closeness to powerlines and with duration of exposure. Living within 50 metres of a high-voltage powerline for 15 years or more showed a doubling of risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

6. The Swiss study is consistent with the combined analyses of risk of Alzheimer’s with occupational exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields (Garcia et al, 2008; news250.5). The evidence for risk of Alzheimer’s is quantitatively comparable with that for childhood leukaemia, which is recognised as an IARC class 2B carcinogen. The comparison, already made in news250.5, is reinforced by the Swiss study, which parallels the UK Draper study for childhood leukaemia related to proximity to powerlines. See also Powerwatch & Dail Express

7. It is disappointing to see National Grid still arguing that the balance of evidence is against EMF effects. While the position is not certain, more sophisticated statistical analysis suggests that non-causal explanations for the data are very unlikely, even for childhood leukaemia alone. Together with the Alzheimer’s results (and others), the balance should favour some sort of causation underlying these clear associations.

8. Likewise it is disappointing that NG’s costs of underground cables (UGC), are given in the Express article “as between six and 17 times” the costs of overhead lines. These appear contrary to the new Irish reports (including the government-commissioned, industry-based Ecofys report) mentioned in the items above. Both Revolt and stakeholders in SAGE have long called for the differences between UGC cost estimates to be publicly investigated and reconciled. Failure to do so leaves us feeling that NG may be dragging its feet.

9. The EU Commission has published a Second Strategic Energy Review, COM(2008) 744/3. It calls for a European Supergrid including a North Sea offshore grid, “to interconnect the national electricity grids in north-western Europe together and plug-in the numerous planned offshore wind projects”. The proposals are to support the new EU 20-20-20 energy policy (20% reduction in greenhouse gas; 20% renewables share of energy; 20% improvement in energy efficiency). Details are to be worked out in 2009/2010.

10. The EU Strategic Energy Review refers (section 2.5) refers to a Strategic Energy Technology Plan, endorsed by Council in 2008. Its working document SEC(2007) 1510, in section 14 on “Smart Grids”, recognises both the need for grid development and the problems with conventional overhead lines (extract at APPENDIX A below). Download here It is timely and important for public concern groups like Revolt to encourage industry and governments to recognise their concerns and to pursue these alternatives to overhead lines. The forthcoming UK government response to the SAGE report will be one test; the Scottish government response on Beauly-Denny another, especially with a north-sea offshore grid suggested.

11. On November 13th Hambleton DC rejected the Seamer windfarm application, on grounds of landscape and visual amenity, against the advice of officers. Officers’ hands may be tied by national policy and imposed targets. Stockton BC had already rejected their half of the application on grounds of insufficient information. “Restores your faith!”, said Rita Sinclair of Seamer and Hilton Windfarm Action Group (SHWAG).

12. Pesticide spraying was one of the case studies at a European Environment Agency workshop in May. Like EMF, it was an example of different review bodies reaching different conclusions. There did seem a genuine case for public concern, obscured by limitations of official reviews. For example the dispersal of spray in (idealised) theory was not a good representation of real practice. Now a High Court has determined that there was “solid evidence” that residents had suffered harm. Sometimes governments, and their expert advisers, can adopt rather pompous “we know best” positions, and yet be very wrong in a way much of the ordinary public could plainly see. How else do we get the BSE-CJD and credit-crunch crises? That is why governments should not rely on statutory advisors defending their monopoly status, and should seek pluralistic advice. ***** *****

APPENDIX A Extract from EU Strategic Energy Technology Plan, working document SEC(2007) 1510.

From section 14.1:

Since building or upgrading conventional overhead lines to increase the transmission capacity is progressively more difficult, alternative technologies are either being deployed or are under development:

a) HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) systems, already mature for long distance and undersea transmission (also suitable for connecting off-shore wind-farms) may contribute to regulate the current flowing through the network.

b) Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS), gradually more deployed, are power electronics-based devices aiming to increase the control over voltages and power flows in the grid;

c) New types of conductors - including Gas Insulated Lines (GIL), High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) wires and high-current composite conductors - are installed at demonstration level with encouraging results in terms of lower electricity losses and higher transfer capacities. A major drawback of such new technologies is the higher investment cost in comparison with traditional solutions.

Software and ICT can contribute as well to increase the adequacy and robustness of the system - thus reducing the need for building new infrastructures - and to augment its observability and governability:

a) Dynamic thermal power rating techniques intend to exploit favourable ambient conditions (low temperatures) to temporarily overload conductors without risks of mechanical and thermal stress.

b) Wide Area Monitoring Systems (WAMS) aim to monitor, assess and optimise the power flows across the whole system, by means of largescale satellite-based measurements.

From section 14.4:

The main barriers hindering the development of the present grids and the design of future electricity networks are to be found in the inadequacy of the current regulatory framework, the low degree of technical and research coordination and the increasing social opposition to new installations.

Investments appear distorted as a result of insufficient unbundling: the network operators have few incentives to develop the grid in the overall market interest and investment decisions of vertically integrated companies are biased to the needs of supply affiliates. Regulations and standardisation covering grids issues are either not harmonised or lacking in national laws and codes. EU research is fragmented and driven by short-term profit visions.

Streamlined and simplified cooperation procedures and tools between different stakeholders - e.g. RES producers, Transmission System Operators (TSOs), Distribution System Operators (DSOs), research institutes - are missing. Coordinated procedures and common tools (e.g. on the development of reliability and probabilistic security criteria, on network management and planning techniques) are sometimes not shared and agreed upon by the same TSOs.

Social acceptance of electricity infrastructures is steadily declining. Additionally, a shortage of qualified workforce is recorded in the EU.




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