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Iceland's energy 'could help protect N Ireland electricity using undersea cable'

Energy from Iceland could help safeguard Northern Ireland's electricity supply, the economy minister said.

The North Atlantic country enjoys massive volcanic resources and Simon Hamilton declared Northern Ireland would be a good place to land a giant undersea cable pumping some of the plentiful supply of geothermal power to the UK.

British ministers have previously discussed an interconnector, which would be one of the longest in the world at around 750 miles.

Geothermal energy is extracted from the heat stored in the Earth's core and is readily available in Iceland because it is close to tectonic plates.

The Arctic country gets most of its power from hydro and geothermal sources.

There have been concerns in Northern Ireland about power blackouts within the next decade as demand could outstrip supply.

Mr Hamilton said technology like battery storage and better energy market links with the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland may help meet the challenge.

He added: "We should be thinking ambitiously about further afield as well to ensure that we have security of supply and put downward pressure on prices as best we can."

The Democratic Unionist was quizzed by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs at Westminster about an energy link with Iceland.

He responded: "We should not think just about the North/South interconnector, we should think more about East and West but we should be looking at more opportunities.

"I am not saying that they are simple or easy or low cost options but I can recall the last prime minister talking openly about this (Icelandic) option and I am just making the point that I think Northern Ireland would be as good a destination to land an interconnector."

He said it would not be a matter primarily for Stormont ministers.

"If it was being taken forward at a UK Government level I think Northern Ireland would be as good an option to land that into and connect into the rest of Great Britain and it would be to everybody's benefit."

Despite falling electricity prices, he said, the market at present was too small.

"It is not as efficient as we would want it to be. When you integrate it with a bigger market you get a much more efficient market."

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