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Offshore transmission for wind: comparing the economic benefits of different offshore network configurations

Houghton, T. and Bell, K.R.W. and Doquet, M. (2016) Offshore transmission for wind: comparing the economic benefits of different offshore network configurations. Renewable Energy, 94. pp. 268-279. ISSN 0960-1481

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It has been argued that increasing transmission network capacity is vital to ensuring the full utilisation of renewables in Europe. The significant wind generation capacity proposed for the North Sea combined with high penetrations of other intermittent renewables across Europe has raised interest in different approaches to connecting offshore wind that might increase also interconnectivity between regions in a cost effective way. These analyses to assess a number of putative North Sea networks confirm that greater interconnection capacity between regions increases the utilisation of offshore wind energy, reducing curtailed wind energy by up to 9TWh in 2030 based on 61GW of installed capacity, and facilitating a reduction in annual generation costs of more than €0.5bn. However, at 2013 fuel and carbon prices, such additional network capacity allows cheaper high carbon generation to displace more expensive lower carbon plant, increasing coal generation by as much as 24TWh and thereby increasing CO2 emissions. The results are sensitive to the generation "merit order" and a sufficiently high price would yield up to 28% decrease emissions depending on the network case. It is inferred that carbon pricing may impact not only generation investment but also the benefits associated with network development.