From Iceland — Power Company Disagrees With Minister's Contentions

Power Company Disagrees With Minister’s Contentions

Published July 14, 2016

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Gretar Ívarsson/Wikimedia Commons

The head of Iceland’s national power company asserts the Industry Minister’s remarks on a proposed undersea cable to Britain are false.

As reported, the findings of a government project manager examining the idea of an undersea power cable connecting Iceland to Britain for exporting electricity has brought to light a number of details about the practical logistics. Amongst these is the amount of electricity that Iceland would need to feed the cable in order to make the project viable.

Minister of Industry Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir told reporters that no decision will be taken on the cable before parliamentary elections this autumn. She added that the projected electricity output needed was equivalent “to two Kárahnjúkar dams”, referring to the massive hydropower dam in east Iceland that powers the Reyðarfjörður aluminium smelter.

Hörður Arnarson, the director of the National Power Company of Iceland, told RÚV that this contention is not at all true.

“There is no need for two Kárahnjúkar dams,” he told reporters. “No one else has said this, as far as I know, and it certainly does not appear in the report [on the cable]. The report only estimates 250 megawatts from a traditional power plant as we know them, which is equivalent to one Hrauneyjarfoss power plant or less than half of one Kárahnjúkar.”

The idea of an undersea cable connecting Iceland and Britain has been bandied about for years now. Former British Minister of Energy Charles Hendry was particularly enthusiastic about the idea, saying in 2012 that “We will be dependent on imported energy”, and that the cables “are an absolutely critical part of energy security and for low carbon energy.”

Be that as it may, an undersea cable between the two island nations would be a tremendous undertaking. Unnur Stella Guðmundsdóttir, an engineer for the Danish company Energy Net and an expert in cables, pointed out in 2012 that cable would be about 1,000 to 1,500 kilometres long – the longest in the world. Second, it would lay about 1,200 metres below the surface of the sea. Only one cable is deeper – the one between Sardina and Italy, at about 1,600 kilometres, but is also not nearly as long as the proposed Iceland-UK cable.

In 2013, Minister of Industry Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir expressed concerns about the financial viability as well.

The government estimates that 75% of Iceland’s energy is undeveloped, according to Bloomberg. Hydropower 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.

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