Uncertain Environmental Effects And Profit From Sea Cable - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Uncertain Environmental Effects And Profit From Sea Cable

Published July 15, 2013

Plans of connecting the Icelandic power grid to the European mainland need some environmental consideration, says Minister of Industry.

“We have to realize the potential environmental impact such a project may have,” minister Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir told Bloomberg. “It’s not just a question of plugging the cable into the next available socket.”

The idea is to build a 1,170 km long submarine sea cable between Iceland and the UK, carrying 700-1,100 megawatts. It would be the longest link of its kind, Bloomberg reports, and the estimated annual export revenue ranges from 4 billion to 76 billion ISK.

Ragnheiður is also concerned about the uncertainty about the profit. “A divide that large can’t be used as the basis for a firm decision, although it makes for a good first step in information gathering.” So a second study will be ordered by the government before another step will be taken towards the huge project.

The government estimates that 75% of Iceland’s energy is undeveloped, according to Bloomberg. Hydropower from its glaciers accounts for about 73% of electricity production and the rest is generated from geothermal sources. About 39% of the available geothermal energy, which taps the earth’s heat, is used to make electricity.

The island produced 17.2 terawatt-hours of electricity last year, of which 79% went to power three aluminium smelters and a ferrosilicon smelter. Output could be doubled, or tripled, depending on whether Iceland exploits environmentally sensitive areas, the National Energy Authority estimates.

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