Grid development

Preparations for grid strengthening continued during the year, including large infrastructure projects relating to grid reinforcement and connections for new consumers. Contracts on connections for power-intensive consumers at the Helguvík and Bakki industrial sites were reviewed by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) with respect to possible state aid. ESA concluded that the contracts did not involve state aid.

A new legislative act amending the Electricity Act’s provisions regarding our Grid Plan took effect during the year. Under the new act, the Grid Plan will be issued annually for a 10-year horizon at a time and must include an infrastructure development plan for the subsequent three years. The Grid Plan will also be subject to the National Energy Authority’s approval.

Grid Plan’s new focus areas

We presented our 2015-2024 Grid Plan and Environmental Report during the year. This was the second time that the Grid Plan went through a strategic environmental assessment. A new thematic section in the plan discusses a potential sub-sea cable to Europe and its connection possibilities from Landsnet’s point of view. The main change from the last Grid Plan is that the number of options has been reduced from three to two main options that Landsnet considers the most viable ones for future grid strengthening. One of these two options is a connection over Iceland’s central highland plateau. The other is to reinforce the existing Inter-Regional Transmission Network. The Grid Plan sets out a total of nine different versions of these two main options, each involving a mixture of new infrastructure and voltage raising of current lines.

The most advantageous option is considered to be the connection over the central highlands with powerful transmission lines to the north and east. However, the renewal of the Inter-Regional Transmission Network with 220 kV lines is considered a systemically better option with respect to individual aspects such as the flexibility of power delivery, increased transmission, grid strength and security of supply. What makes the Inter-Regional Transmission Network option less attractive than the highland option, however, is the environmental considerations and higher construction costs. In addition, it is not expected to deliver its full systemic advantages until all construction milestones are complete.

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A draft Grid Plan together with the Environmental Report were submitted for inspection and presentation to the National Planning Agency and posted on Landsnet’s website around mid-year. Their contents were also introduced at a well-attended presentation at Hótel Natura, an internet video broadcast of which was provided. A total of 59 sets of comments were received on the draft Grid Plan, answers to which were posted on Landsnet’s website in November and sent to consultation bodies.

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Grid Plan requires regulator’s approval

Under amendments effective from June 2015 to the Electricity Act, the Grid Plan is now subject to the approval of the National Energy Authority (NEA), which also monitors its implementation. The NEA is obliged to take account of the Electricity Act’s stated objectives regarding security, efficiency, security of supply, power quality and the government policy on the installation of power lines.

Since this is the first Grid Plan prepared by Landsnet under the amended legal framework, the planning process has unavoidably been affected. An updated Grid Plan that was completed following a general consultation process was submitted to the NEA at the end of November, which gave Landsnet’s customers a time limit until January 2016 to submit written comments on the plan. This made it impossible to obtain approval of the 2015-2024 Grid Plan before year-end 2015, but it is hoped that the process will be completed in the first quarter of 2016.

Grid Plan’s EIA

In parallel with the Grid Plan, the second Environmental Report was issued, this time focusing on the two options presented in the Grid Plan. The environmental impacts of the two options were subjected to a comprehensive assessment, with each option considered separately followed by their comparison.

The assessment identified environmental impacts likely to result from the Grid Plan’s performance and potential mitigating measures. One change from the previous year is that tourism was given a separate assessment instead of being placed under the general category of economic development. This aimed to provide more clarity on the options’ negative impacts on tourism, instead of balancing the negative impacts against positive impacts that grid strengthening has on other economic development. The Environmental Report also looked at a more detailed version of one of the options presented in the Grid Plan. This is a version of the highlands option involving a 50km long underground cable on a section of the connection over the Sprengisandur plateau to minimise visual impact. The Environmental Report was submitted for presentation and comment together with the Grid Plan, which elicited a considerable number of comments.

Environmental impact assessment

To settle the question of whether the highlands option is a feasible way of strengthening the grid, preparation for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Sprengisandur Line commenced in 2014. A draft scoping document was presented to stakeholders and the general public in late 2014. In late 2015, the document was submitted to the National Planning Agency for a formal decision on whether to proceed, in accordance with the EIA Act.

The EIA of the reinforcement of the Inter-Regional Transmission Network from the Sigalda substation in south Iceland to the town of Höfn in south-east Iceland is in the preparatory stages. Work on the EIA of the Krafla Line 3, to extend from the Fljótsdalur Power Station in eastern Iceland to the northern city of Akureyri, and the Blanda Line 3, extending from Akureyri to the Blanda Power Station in northern Iceland, has been ongoing for some considerable time.

An EIA is a systematic process to obtain more in-depth information with regard to routeing, the design of structures and potential environmental impacts before a decision is made whether to proceed with the works to strengthen the grid.

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Line icing forecasting model being developed

Icing on structures is a major issue for many TSOs operating in cold climates. Landsnet has for several years taken an active part in international co-operation in this field, in which a key focus has been to develop a forecasting model for icing on transmission lines.

A Landsnet representative gave a presentation on this research at the annual International Workshops on Atmospheric Icing of Structures in the summer of 2015. Information from Landsnet’s database for icing on transmission lines and from our experimental lines form a basis of comparison in this field of research between simulated accretions and icing data. Such comparison is essential for future forecasting models to become sufficiently reliable to determine load criteria, a major factor for the construction costs and operational security of transmission lines.