The Booming Business of Knitting Together The World’s Electricity Grids
Intermittent renewables and current mayhem in energy markets highlight the importance of firms that link up producers of power with faraway consumers
The ways electricity is both consumed (more of it, notably by cars) and produced (also more, increasingly through renewable sources) are changing. Balancing energy supply and demand is never easy, as mayhem in European gas markets has shown. It is all the more complex for electricity, which is trickier to store than not just gas, but also coal, diesel or wood chips. Renewables add more wrinkles: wind blows haphazardly; the sun can be obscured by clouds or night. As a result, most of the power that is produced has to be consumed immediately, and mostly in the place that produces it.
Advances in undersea cable-laying have helped open up the prospect of new and novel interconnections. Longer cables mean fewer legs of 100km or so that need to be stitched together. The viability of much longer interconnectors is being mooted as a result. A 720km Norway-to-Britain link started operating this month. Many are in various stages of planning, for example hooking up Greece and Israel, or Ireland and France. Others are more speculative, such as a 3,800km cable linking the sun-baked solar fields of Morocco with Britain. Another consortium wants to link Australia, Indonesia and Singapore, a 4,200km project.