A renewable energy expert has questioned the cost and feasibility of moving ahead with the Lincolnshire to Denmark power cable project known as the Viking Link.
Brian Vad Mathiesen, a Danish engineer and professor at Aalborg University, said that uncertainties over when the investment would make a profit together with a potential increase in greenhouse gas emissions meant that it was worth reconsidering the viability of the project.
The Viking Link is a proposed 473-mile long electricity interconnector between Bicker Fen near Boston and the Revsing substation in southern Jutland, Denmark.
It was initially hoped that the £1.6 billion project between National Grid and Danish company Energinet would begin operating in 2022.
However, the project partners have postponed making a final investment decision to seek “further clarity” on planning consent in Lincolnshire, meaning probable delays in getting the network up and running.
Electricity would be imported to the East Coast through cables under the North Sea, before being transported through Lincolnshire via underground cables to the National Grid substation at Bicker Fen.
National Grid Viking Link has said that the scheme will reduce the cost of electricity and provide low carbon energy for one million households.
This is something that has been questioned by Professor Vad Mathiesen, who raised doubts about how beneficial the project would actually be in reality.
He said: “I think it is a huge project and with the uncertainties about future fuel and electricity prices being extremely high over the next 40 years, it is worth considering whether it should even go ahead.
“It will take a number of years for the cable to be built and it will take until around 2040 for the investment to start to give a profit according to the Danish transmission system operator, Energinet.
“Over such a long time period, there could be changes in the cost of electricity in the UK and Denmark, which could change the business case for Energinet significantly.
“Apparently, the decision to move forward on the Danish side has been taken with no evaluation of the CO2 emissions. If the calculations in the business case from Energinet will be a reality, it could increase greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you have German coal power replacing natural gas in the UK, with Denmark acting as a transit country, then CO2 emissions may increase across Europe. The business case from Energinet at least is based on an increase of several million tonnes of CO2 in Germany and similar reductions in the UK.
“It seems problematic that no-one seems to have told UK Business Secretary Greg Clark that while British coal is on the decline, German coal may be on the incline.”
In response, a spokesperson for Energinet said: “Both parties believe Viking Link is an exciting feasible project with a sound economic return. The regulators in each country have approved the project. The approval from the each regulator is based on the corresponding party’s business case.
“From the Danish side, the approval process also involved the regulator conducting a study similar to the one in the business case. Moreover, the regulator also asked an independent consultant to do a similar study. Both these studies confirmed Energinet’s conclusion that the project is economically sound.
“Viking Link provides the opportunity to continue the development of renewables and therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economy and Place at Lincolnshire County Council, said that the project should have been referred to a full planning inquiry reporting to the Secretary of State.
He said: “I have supported the project provided environmental impacts could be addressed, especially around how the grid connection was to be made onshore in Lincolnshire.
“The decision to delay the investment strikes me as bizarre bearing in mind how important it was to progress quickly when the project was first announced.
“We can only now await further announcements from the National Grid and government concerning when and if this project is to proceed.”