Alderney: ‘electricity use must rise for move to renewables’

ALDERNEY needs to consume more electricity if the island is to move into using renewable sources rather than fossil fuels, said the managing director of its electricity company.

Aerial shot of Alderney breakwater (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28864231)
Aerial shot of Alderney breakwater (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28864231)

Alderney Electricity Ltd’s James Lancaster said that the company is eager to integrate renewables into the island’s infrastructure, and the idea would be for it to have a cable link to the French mainland, like Guernsey and Jersey.

Discussions have taken place about having a subsea extension between the island and the tidal array that is due to be installed off Cap de la Hague.

Simec Atlantis Energy Ltd wants to build a tidal array capable of generating a gigawatt of power by 2025.

Mr Lancaster said Atlantis has received approval to transfer the concession previously owned by Electricite de France to the company: ‘That’s really the final official block that was preventing them moving into full planning mode, which they are now in.

‘We have signed heads of terms with them relating to a Power Purchase Agreement to buy power from a cable that they would additionally lay from the tidal array to Alderney.’

However, because Alderney is a small community, and with the advent of more energy-efficient devices, AEL is struggling to make this project work economically, he said: ‘The less we take from the cable, the more expensive it gets.’

He estimated that the cost for the additional cable would be between £10m. and £12m. and consumption at the moment does not justify the link economically.

The island has to do this, said Mr Lancaster, in order to be able to stop burning fossil fuels for its energy in future. In the same way as Guernsey, the power station would be maintained but used only in the event of a problem with the cable.

When the heads of terms agreement was announced last year, a promise was made that power coming down the cable would not be inflationary. AEL has also explored the idea of putting a solar array near the island’s harbour, but that plan has been put on the back burner for the time being: ‘I need all the consumption I can get to justify the economics of the cable,’ said Mr Lancaster.

Consumption on the island has dropped by about 3% a year over the last decade but even so, the numbers were ‘tantalisingly close’, he added, and the island’s consumption was about 10-20% of what was needed.

He had enthusiastic responses from States members to the idea, but some were cautious: ‘There are a number of people who will then temper that enthusiasm and say “what if it doesn’t work?”.’

Mr Lancaster said at the moment it is a case of his being more interested in how islanders use electricity than how it is generated.

To address the decline, migrating more things that currently use fossil fuels onto the grid would be the answer.

This could include the likes of electric cars and having more people sign up for electrically powered domestic heating.

AEL and the island’s post office are leading the way with electric vans, but in terms of privately owned electric vehicles he said most people use golf carts.

If a significant proportion of the vehicle fleet could be converted to electric, that would be a start: ‘If we can migrate a number of the properties on the island from kerosene heating to advanced electrical heating, that would clinch the deal,’ said Mr Lancaster.

Alderney’s power station uses diesel-fuelled generators to provide electricity.

As well as the need to reduce emissions, there is concern over security of supply.

Fuel for the generators is currently delivered via the same ships that service Guernsey. If Guernsey stopped using these, by, for instance, building a deep water fuel point outside of the harbours, so larger ships could visit the island, or importing fuel via special isotanks using traditional cargo ships, Mr Lancaster said Alderney would have a problem. It could not take bigger ships in its harbour.

‘We could ship fuel in isotanks. But at the moment we are bringing in four loads of a million litres a year. If you are bringing it in in 20,000 litre isotanks, that’s a lot of isotanks.’

Infrastructure could be upgraded to take higher capacity tanks, but that would still involve a lot of them and transport costs would increase dramatically.

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