The average price of the electricity generated would be just 4.6 euro cents per kWh, competitive with today's rates. Europe's 1.25bn tons of annual CO2 output from electricity generation would be wiped out. High-voltage direct current (HVDC) lines, up to 100 times as long as the alternating current (AC) cables carried by the National Grid's pylons, would form the system's main arteries. While AC lines are the international standard, they leak energy. HVDC lines are three times as efficient, making them cost effective over distances above 50 miles.
"We have the technical abilities to build such a supergrid within three to five years," said Dr Gregor Czisch, an energy systems expert at the University of Kassel in Germany. "We just need to commit to this big long-term strategy."
Many supporters of renewable energy see it as a small-scale technology, but Dr Gordon Edge of the British Wind Energy Association, said the megaproject was essential. "European policy is only just waking up to this," he said.
The supergrid would draw power from massed turbines in a band of countries to Europe's south and east that have above average wind potential, feeding it to the industrialised centres of Europe. The scale would overcome the biggest obstacle to wind power – its unreliability. In smaller networks, such as Britain's National Grid, calm weather could cut production to zero. But the supergrid would cover a region so large that the wind would always be blowing somewhere.