The above slide from Czisch (“An affordable renewable power system for Europe”) shows that Europe is unlikely to be vulnerable to sudden disconnection / sabotage of say a single or several, North African regions since there is considerable redundancy in connection and diversity of supply areas, and European grids of necessity already have existing sophisticated systems for coping with the sudden loss of a large amount of generation. Under Czisch’s cheapest scenario, only 42% overall is imported from outside Europe and this is shared amongst 10 such contributing generating regions including Ukraine, Kazakhstan etc. Each link is duplicated and if one half is lost, the other can carry the load temporarily. There is also a ring main system so power can still flow around the periphery even if a major link is cut. The Supergrid could be built without assuming net imports – this merely makes the power somewhat more expensive.
Arguably a string of pylons through an unpopulated desert area is very easy to protect militarily – cameras, satellites, tv cameras, no on else supposed to be around, helicopters etc. It would be much easier to attack these installations in Europe itself where the attacker can melt into the background. No grid is 100% reliable – UK lost power in 2008 due to the sudden failure of Sizewell B nuclear power station, the largest source of unreliability on the UK National Grid.
Existing European fossil stations would be retained (plus nine months coal and 2 weeks gas stocks – as now) and kept warm as appropriate (numbers and loadings determined on a risk probability basis as now) and can be started in hours. Various automatic load shedding systems (2 GW in UK existing) and fast start generation (5 GW of diesels in France, 500 MW in UK , – existing ) Realtek1, Realteck2, ) French EJP tariff, can also be extended and deployed to make the risk of loss of supply no worse than it is now. These automatic load shedding and fast start power generation systems, plus hydro storage, can cover for the few hours taken whilst fossil plant is ramped up, making us immune to threats of sabotage and / or sudden disconnection, thereby removing any incentive for any perpetrators.
It is highly likely there will be an increase in electric powered vehicles and these can be used to store energy, back feed, or defer charging to support reliability.
Once built, the power output from external European generation can only be sent to its intended destination – unlike say oil and gas which can be switched elsewhere very quickly. For years Europe has imported crucial amounts of fuel from countries ill disposed to us such Iran / Iraq with no problem.
We also need to consider the humanitarian and moral issues involved. For years, Europe has plundered and impoverished Africa – the reason the Somali pirates changed from being peaceful fisherman to pirates, was because their fish stocks were destroyed by European and others over fishing their seas. (Europe has bought up the rights to many African country’s fish, meaning it is illegal for the locals to fish, but have to watch the European trawlers stealing their fish, and then buy it back in tins from the local shops, assuming they have any money – little wonder they hop in their boats and hold up passing shipping – this is never of course mentioned in our hopeless newspapers).
We have seen the results of this systematic impoverishment coupled with population growth with the recent escape of 2000 North African boat people from detention on the Italian island of Lampedusa.
What would make sense would be for us to invest in these countries so that they had their own indigenous source of power (in Czisch’s plan, the locals are all supplied and it is the residue which is exported to Europe), income and work, and Europe would pay them to send the power to us. This would start to give them a reason to live in and be proud of their own countries, and the ability to develop agriculture, (sea water green house)/ (desert rose scheme) rather than risking death trying to get to Europe.
The assertion that such a system of imported energy such as Czisch’s plan is likely to be any less reliable than the present system of importing all our fuel from politically unstable areas, with dwindling resources is quite wrong. It will be much less vulnerable than say the Russian gas imports, since there is no alternative to Russian gas in our gas fired power stations.
The UTCE (Union of Transmission Companies in Europe) states it takes 7 – 10 years to build a typical line, so Europe should be getting together now and planning these to make space on the grid for both indigenous European resources (Czisch assumes 58% indigenous, but this could quite easily be 100%) and those which can be imported. Wind farms by comparison take only typically 3 years to build. Renewable development in UK is already stymied because we have failed to build grid connections ahead of demand.
Even the hopeless IEA (The International Energy Agency – the so called Rich Nations Energy Watchdog (aka The Dog That Didn’t Bark) recognises the role that interconnection can play in accommodating renewables.
See also Czisch’ recent comment on security and imports.