The global course has been set. We are steadily but surely moving away from fossil fuels towards alternatives. The energy source par excellence is electric. And we turn a blind eye to the fact that this electricity production is not always green. We have to, because at the moment, renewable production does not guarantee a constant, let alone sufficient, supply. It is clear that investing in renewable energy is important, but the world is looking at a not to be underestimated sore point: it is insufficiently, if at all, connected electrically. After all, it does not matter if electricity is produced in an ecological manner if it is not available where it is needed. Since the sun doesn't always shine here and the wind doesn't always blow, connecting electricity networks across borders is a crucial factor in realising energy transition.
"Interconnectors will ensure that even on dark and windless days, we'll have renewable energy at our fingertips."
Wouter is Manager Offshore Cables at Jan De Nul Group
The energy landscape is changing
Electricity is being produced worldwide, both at sea and on land, yet production levels are unpredictable. Constant electricity production as we know it will increasingly make way for renewable variants with production highs and lows. This impulsive character and the search for the ideal way to deal with it are growing pains of the global energy transition. There is no doubt that the demand for electricity will not decrease. Private individuals rely on electricity to charge their cars, heat their homes and power up their cookers, and the industrial sectors are reviewing their operations and switching to electrically-driven production. Power from shore projects are also on the rise in the sector: electricity from land is needed for the operation of oil and gas platforms at sea. These are all initiatives that contribute to making the world greener, but they can only be realised with electricity. The demand will soon skyrocket, making electricity transport a critical factor to be able to meet that demand. The electricity revolution is a fact, and it is therefore up to anyone who can make a difference to try and do so.
More interconnectivity, more surety
The changing energy landscape has made interconnectivity a priority. The installation of interconnectors is therefore booming business. By analogy with the classic high-voltage lines that we regularly see in our landscape, submarine interconnectors also connect different electricity networks to each other. In this way, countries can efficiently exchange electricity and thus absorb national peak consumption levels.
There are many projects in the pipeline for the coming years, which will accelerate the energy transition. In Belgium, Elia and the Danish Energinet are looking into the possibility of connecting the two countries by means of an interconnector. There are also plans for a new connection with the United Kingdom, in addition to the already existing Nemo connection. Iceland wants to transport hydropower and geothermal energy to the United Kingdom by cable. Countries in Asia, Africa and America are also looking at this sea route: Singapore, Tasmania and Papua New Guinea want to connect, Morocco wants to transport solar energy to England via submarine cables, and Panama and Colombia are also looking at an energy connection.
The installation of a sufficient number of interconnectors to various other countries, combined with domestically generated renewable energy, will continue to broaden the energy landscape increasingly widespread and allow us to maintain and secure energy supplies across national borders. Moreover, they should enable us to become less dependent on traditional energy production, such as coal, gas and oil, and on the limited group of countries that currently supply us with these fossil energies. With the installation of submarine electricity cables, we are contributing to an essential part of the energy transition.
If we are to provide the world with the necessary electricity supply, the industrial chain faces challenging times. The capacity of everything that produces and transports electricity will have to increase if we want to get and keep the electricity supply up to standard. Cable suppliers will have to manufacture more, longer and heavier cables. Wind turbine components will continue to grow in size and quantity, and the equipment needed to install them must be able to cope with this growth. The recent decision to purchase our third cable-laying vessel Connector fits into this picture. We are ready for the steep progress in the sector.