Importing Icelandic Power

An ambitious project conceived by an Icelandic economist aims to connect Iceland and the UK with an undersea power cable, exporting electricity to Britain.

The idea has been in the works for many years but has had its fair share of logistical problems.

Both Prime Minister David Cameron and Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson have assembled separate expert groups to weigh the pros and cons of the plan. The results of the investigations are expected to be released within the next six months.

The project courted controversy in Iceland where it was feared the cable would lead to increased energy prices in Iceland and decreased jobs of Icelanders. However, Sigmundur was quick to assure people this would not be the case. Investor and economist Hreiðar Guðjónsson believes that Iceland might not even have to pay for the project at all.

“[The British] are potentially ready to finance this and be like any other lessee,” he said.

Hreiðar added that colder winters in Britain could lead to the country increasing demand for exported electricity “just like [Iceland] sends [Britain] fish.”

The idea of the cable has been around for some time and former British Minister of Energy Charlse Hendry commented on the plan in 2012.

“We will be dependent on imported energy”, he said, adding that cables “are an absolutely critical part of energy security and for low carbon energy.”

Despite this, constructing a cable between the two countries would be a huge undertaking. The cable would end up being around 1,000 to 1,500 kilometres long, making it the longest in the world, while also laying 1,200 metres below the surface of the sea.

In 2013, Iceland’s Minister of Industry Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir voiced his concerns about the huge cost of the project.

However, the government estimates that as much as 75% of Iceland’s energy resources are undeveloped.

Hydropower accounts for about 73% of electricity production in the country, while the rest is tapped from geothermal sources. Only about 39% of the available geothermal energy is used to make electricity.