Plans for a £30billion North Sea supergrid took a step forward last night with heavyweight business support for a power network linking Scotland, Norway, Germany, Denmark, France and England.
Ten European companies including Siemens and Hochtief of Germany and Areva of France joined Mainstream Renewable Power of Ireland to launch “Friends of Supergrid” in London.
The companies aim to set up an office in Brussels to provide technical support for a lobby of the European Commission for the network.
The supergrid would use high-voltage DC cables to exchange power using wind, wave and tidal resources in Scotland and other coastal states.
It would use hydro-electric power from Norway to make up a power deficit when the wind dies down.
It will be debated at a conference in London over the next two days.
The concept already has wide support, although there are doubts about its cost – the approximate equivalent of half a dozen new nuclear power stations.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the energy ministers of North Sea countries have committed themselves to convene a high-level meeting to discus the proposals later this year.
She said: “The first thing we’re aiming for is a common vision, of what we’re trying to achieve with a view to signing a memorandum of understanding in the autumn with our ministers setting out what we’re trying to do and how we plan to do it.”
The project is called The North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative.
Scottish Renewables chief executive Niall Stuart said: “There’s no doubt that a supergrid would offer significant economic opportunities for Scotland, as it would allow us to export huge quantities of renewable electricity to mainland Europe.
“If done on an ambitious enough scale it would also balance out some of the variability associated with renewable generation.”
He added: “However, there are some tremendous challenges to delivery, not least its cost.”
Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran said: “This is probably the future of the North Sea.
“Western European countries have a high demand for energy as does Scotland, but we have the potential to become one of the biggest renewables producers.
“It would need the agreement of all the governments of North Sea countries, but the idea of an offshore energy grid is an excellent one.”
Angus MP Mike Weir, the SNP’s energy spokesman, said: “We have long backed the idea of a European North Sea supergrid.
“Scotland has a huge potential to feed into the supergrid and also to draw off power when needed. It is a far-sighted proposal.”
A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This move is of great importance and significance to Scotland, with our potential to generate up to 25% of wave, wind and tidal power for the whole of Europe.
“Never before has Scotland been so well placed to become the green energy capital of Europe, and it is clear that substantive steps are being taken to transform Scotland’s vast offshore renewables potential into reality.”