REVOLT News 

08/11/2004

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Revolt news 174 

1. Shadow Environment Minister Anne McIntosh MP has issued a press release calling for a mass revolt against pylons (APPENDIX 1). This is her own initiative, which will delight supporters of REVOLT. Anne McIntosh has supported REVOLT over many years and has raised numerous Parliamentary Questions and debates on the subject.

2. The TEAC press release (news169) about an extensive study by Draper et al, said to confirm the increased risk of childhood leukaemia from powerlines, was not much picked up by the media at the time. On 29 October Sky News did a piece about it, and the concern about the delay in bringing results to publication, and there has been much more media interest.

From the BBC web site: "Research author Dr Gerald Draper said other research suggested power lines might account for 20 to 30 of 500 cases of childhood leukaemia each year. But, he said, his work indicated a far smaller number of cases were affected. The findings were "surprising" and prompted further research, he added." I don't know why he found such results a surprise, as they seem broadly consistent with the now well established and repeated results for exposures over 0.4 microTesla.

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/health/3967073.stm 

3. An article in the Ecologist October 2004 highlights health concerns with the TETRA police communication system. Costing 2.9 billion, the UK's new police communication system Tetra has been described by one independent scientist (Barrie Trower who investigated TETRA for the Police Federation in 2001) as likely to cause 'more civilian deaths than all the world's terrorist organisations put together'. The special problem with TETRA is that it uses a pulsed frequency of 17.6 Hz in the region of significant brain activity, different from the usual mobile phone masts.

  http://www.theecologist.org/archive_article.html?article=475 

4. Following a consultancy report on undergrounding last year, the EC has produced a Background Paper. These important documents (for which I am grateful to Ian Paterson) can be seen at:

 http://europa.eu.int/comm/energy/electricity/publications/doc/underground_cables_ICF_feb_03.pdf 

 and 

http://europa.eu.int/comm/energy/electricity/publications/doc/undergrounding.pdf 

Some extracts appear at APPENDIX 2. Although it is useful, the ICF consultancy report seems to be essentially on economics, and shows some technical errors (which appear not to be repeated in the EC paper).

For example, it says that the land above cables cannot be used for farming. We know from the Yorkshire line that land above the 400 kV cables buried at 1 metre depth can be and is being used for farming as normal, although deep ground work and deep rooted trees are to be avoided. Above the 400 kV lines, crops have been grown, sheep grazed and hedgerows (hawthorn) replanted. The cables also tunnel under roads, which remain in use. In an appendix the report says NG was concerned about a 15 metre swathe of sterilised land required for undergrounding; this was challenged at the time with reference to other examples, and is now known in this specific case to be another example of NG's falsehoods and misrepresentations at the Yorkshire inquiries.

The report also says it is difficult to integrate undergrounding with overhead networks because of problems of low impedance. This only would apply to complete or almost complete circuits being underground. The problem does not arise when a small part of a long powerline is underground in series, for example the 6 km of underground cables in the 75 km Yorkshire line.

Elsewhere the report refers to "A large electricity pylon carrying a 380/400kV conductor produces around 10 -20 microteslas (T)" whereas it is the conductors, not the pylons, producing the fields.

Nevertheless the report provides a useful summary of costs, drawing from several European and other countries. The cost-ratio for undergrounding 400 kV powerlines, usually claimed by NG to be 20 to 25 times the cost of overhead lines for the UK, is shown to be excessive compared with other countries, where it is more like 10. Apart from the standard oil-impregnated paper insulation cables, the report discusses (briefly) Cross Linked Polyethylene (XLPE), Gas-Insulated Lines (GIL), High Voltage DC (HVDC), and High Temperature Superconducting (HTSC) technologies.

5. In correspondence with Dr John Etherington, former reader in ecology at University of Wales, the claims that wind farms may increase CO2 emissions become clearer. It is not that back-up generation, while standing by in reserve, consumes power significantly; it is that the type of back up which must be used may be more polluting than the generation which wind displaces. It works like this: a wind farm varies in output so much that (in the UK) it only delivers, on average, a third or less (latest figures indicated 24% in UK, 14% in Germany) of its maximum capacity. The balance is made up by conventional back-up generation.

That's OK if the capacity displaced by wind + back-up is of the same type as the back-up; then the wind power works to provide the third (or perhaps 24%) of the energy consumed as (relatively) clean energy, with no change to the other two-thirds (or three-quarters). But the nature of fast back-up requirements, and the diseconomy of part-time back-up operation, may mean that the back-up is a high CO2 polluter like coal or oil. If the wind + back-up combination then displaces a semi-clean generation like gas CCGT, there is a net increase in CO2 emission. The extra CO2 from the back-up (when delivering, not in reserve mode) is more than that saved by wind's intermittent displacement of the CCGT. Bass and Wilmot (UK Power, issue 2, 2004) do the sums.

This is a kind of iceberg effect: the clean tip of the iceberg is necessarily accompanied by a relatively invisible "underwater" high-CO2 back-up operation, so the total iceberg is more polluting than alternative gas-fired generation. Not only is this a problem in terms of CO2, but also it shows up in financial terms. An analysis of Nissan's proposal to use wind turbines locally suggests the cost of the intermittent and market-risk burdened back-up would make it uneconomic. See

  http://www.commentwire.com/commwire_story.asp?commentwire_ID=6101 

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APPENDIX 1 Anne McIntosh's press release 29 October 2004

ATTENTION NEWS EDITORS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

McIntosh plans mass revolt against pylons

Miss Anne McIntosh, Member of Parliament for the Vale of York & Shadow Environment Minister, and long time campaigner against overhead pylons and transmission lines, has today launched a new campaign to inform the general public of their very serious health risks.

Miss McIntosh said: ?Following my long-term interest in this matter, and close association with REVOLT (Rural England Versus Overhead Line Transmission), I am today increasing the level of my campaign in light of the confirmation of health fears in a secret Department of Health report.

?I shall judge the campaign by its success in ensuring no further overhead pylons are built across the Vale of York, or elsewhere in North Yorkshire, which is particularly threatened with new pylons to connect wind farms to the National Grid.?

Notes for Editors:

- Sky News revealed this morning (29 October) that it had learnt that the Government had known for five years that high-voltage power lines double the risk of childhood cancer

- The study reveals that children living within 100 metres of an overhead cable are more likely to suffer from leukaemia.

- It is estimated that powerlines might account for 20-30 of the 500 cases of childhood leukaemia in Britain each year. They are also suspected of causing other forms of cancer and miscarriages.

Ends.

More from Miss McIntosh on: 020 7219 3541 (House of Commons) 07626 801374 (Pager)

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APPENDIX 2 Extracts from reports on undergrounding (1) report by ICF Consulting Feb 03 to the EC, and (2) Background Paper of the EC of Dec 03. The Background Paper draws heavily on (1) and copies large tracts of it.

>From the ICF report (Executive Summary):

Access to the cables is essential for repairs and maintenance purpose, therefore the land above the cables cannot be used for farming or industrial purposes; ....

Within an existing network of overhead lines, it is difficult to integrate underground cables due to the differences in impedance. To solve this, it is necessary to split up meshed networks and operate them as partial networks, which requires additional investments ...

For example, the capital cost of underground cables at voltages up to 90kV are estimated to be around 2 times more expensive than aerial lines; at voltages of 225kV the estimate is around 3 times more expensive, but at 400kV the estimates are around 10 times more expensive. This multiple is, however, subject to wide variations around Europe, which in part recognises some of the technical difficulties involved in large-scale burial of lines at 400kV. Operating and maintenance costs for cables are estimated to be around one-tenth of the cost of aerial lines and as cables have lower losses than lines, when lifetime costs are taken into account, the cost multiples fall to be between 7 and 12 times. In addition, there is currently over capacity in the European market for transmission cables which has led to falling prices and a current project in Denmark shows that the cost of burying 400kV lines is only 3-4 times more expensive than the overhead line. ...

A large electricity pylon carrying a 380/400kV conductor produces around 10 - 20 microteslas (T) directly under the line and between 3,000 - 5,000 volts per metre. These levels fall with distance to the sides of the line. For example, approximately 25 metres to the side of the pylon, the magnetic field is estimated to be around 5 T and between 200 - 500 volts per metre. ...

Following the severe storms in December 1999, RTE made an estimate of Euro 107 billion as the costs involved in undergrounding all HV and EHV overhead lines in France. France has approximately 46,000 km of overhead lines at voltages of between 220-400kV out of a EU wide total of approximately 200,000 km. Extrapolating this estimate across the EU would represent a total cost of Euro 465 billion. ...

>From the Introduction:

Also, owing to the substantial damage caused to the French electricity network by the storms of December 1999 and the resulting long blackouts, the French authorities are considering the undergrounding of substantial sections of their electricity network to improve their security of supply with electricity. In the January 2002 agreement Accord "Reseaux Electriques et Environnement" the Ministries for Industry and the Environment, EdF and RTE envisage that 90 percent of all new medium voltage distribution network, two-thirds of all new low voltage distribution network and 25 percent of all high voltage transmission networks (i.e. 63/90kV) should be constructed underground, while equivalent lengths of existing aerial line should be transformed into underground cables. The European Commission is considering that the initiative undertaken by France, if applied Europe-wide, may solve the severe environmental problems related to the construction of new electricity lines as well as reduce congestion and increase substantially the security of electricity supply in Europe. However, the Commission feels that the issue must be studied more in depth in order to investigate on one hand the increased costs entailed by underground cables and their operational problems, and on the other hand to estimate as much as possible the benefits to be accrued to the European electricity networks, particularly at the EHV level. ...

>From the technical section:

In the ICF Consulting study for DG TREN entitled Unit Costs of Constructing New Transmission Assets at 380kV within the European Union, Norway and Switzerland, October 2002, the standard cost of constructing a single 380kV line over flat land was estimated at approximately Euro 250,000/km and that of a double circuit was estimated at approximately Euro 400,000/km. ...

The unit cost of sub-sea cable is much less than land cable because the sub-sea cable can be transported from factory to site and then laid by a ship in very long manufactured lengths. This reduces the number of joints required and avoids the labour intensity of land cable installation. Also, the cable can be smaller in size as heat dissipation is more efficient on the seabed than on land. ...

According to data submitted as part of the proposed Basslink project in Australia, approximate costs of maintenance on National Grid's UK AC transmission system derived from 1999 cost data are: Overhead line maintenance ( 600/circuit-km/year); Underground cable maintenance ( 70/circuit-km/year).

>From the section on recent developments:

Although there have been improvements in oil-filled cable design (mainly through the use of extruded and polypropylene paper insulation), the development of XLPE, gas insulated lines/cables (GIL) and high temperature superconductivity (HTS), offer the main potential to reduce the cost of underground cable systems.

>From an appendix on arrangements in particular states:

Applications for overhead line projects are notified to the relevant local planning authorities. If they object to the planned line, the Secretary of State is required to call for a public enquiry. A recent case was the 75 km line between Middlesbrough and York. Significant public concern was raised over the decision to put overhead lines, rather than cables, through the Vale of York. An application to construct the line was made in 1991. Following several years of public enquiries and hearings it took 10 years for all consents and wayleaves to be put in place. National Grid was not in favour of an underground cable on the grounds of cost (the overhead line was expected to cost 540,000/km and the cable 8.9 million/km, a cost factor multiple of 16 times) and environmental concerns over a 15-metre swathe of sterilised land through the countryside. The UK government took the view that the additional cost could not be justified and the aerial route was eventually given the go-ahead with the exception of a 5.7 km cable section.

>From the EC Background Paper (pages 23-24, the final paragraphs of the main report):

On the basis of the analysis of the various sections and especially of sections 3 and 5 in the case of Extra High Voltage (EHV) networks there are a number of important priority crossborder interconnections which are not constructed owing to strong local oppositions for environmental reasons. The use of underground cables in these environmentally critical sections of crossborder interconnections may solve the problems and therefore facilitate and speed-up the construction of the missing links in the near future. The extra costs for undergrounding these critical sections is expected to be outweighed by the additional benefits from the operation of an integrated electricity market in Europe without crossborder barriers, fact that will allow increased exchanges and trade of electricity and may lead to lower prices of electricity.

>From the EC Background Paper page 33 (in Appendix I)

(a) Visual impact: The cable systems present as their biggest advantage the fact that they are "invisible". Therefore, in urban areas and in environmentally sensitive scenic areas the use of underground cables is indispensable, in spite of high construction costs. It is commonly accepted that overhead lines are substantial structures and their visual impact outweighs in some cases their other advantages. Whilst to place a value on the effects of visual impact is a difficult and very subjective exercise, it is very common nowadays that the public opinion of local communities and environmentalists have rendered the construction of new overhead lines rather impossible in most places in Europe. The installation of a cable system has no permanent influence on the landscape, whilst overhead lines and their pylons can be very intrusive on the landscape or on an urban area and local amenities.

>From the EC Background Paper Appendix II):

The Middlesbrough-York Line (United Kingdom) The 70 km long overhead line with two 400 kV circuits (each with a capacity of 2,000 MW) connects the cities of Middlesbrough and York. Significant public concern was raised over the decision to put overhead lines, rather than cables, through the Vale of York. An application to construct the line was made in 1991. Following several years of public enquiries and hearings it took 10 years for all consents and wayleaves to be put in place. National Grid was not in favour of an underground cable on the grounds of cost (the overhead line was expected to cost 540,000/km and the cable 8.9 million/km, a cost factor multiple of 16 times) and environmental concerns over a 15-30 metre swathe of sterilised land through the countryside. The UK government took the view that the additional cost could not be justified and the aerial route was eventually given the go-ahead with the exception of a 5.7 km cable section in the middle of the English countryside. The technology used is a pressurized oil-insulated cable. The buried part covers a total ground area of 30 m of width and cost about 100 million (Euro).

 

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