Ambitious interconnection plans could transform Europe
Europe recently approved studies for energy infrastructure plans that could transform its energy market and boost renewable investments. Electricity interconnection plans specifically between U.K. and France, and Greece, Cyprus and Israel stand out.
The EU’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) has awarded the first 15 of a total 34 energy infrastructure projects that will receive a cumulative funding of EUR 647 mln to cover expenses for their preliminary studies (e.g. regulatory or environmental studies).
The projects, said the European Commission, aim to upgrade existing and develop new energy transmission infrastructure required to promote Europe’s energy security and “will also support the deployment of large-scale renewable energy”.
All 34 plans are part of the 248 Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) selected by the European Commission to step up the bloc’s internal energy market. PCIs may benefit from accelerated licensing procedures, improved regulatory conditions and access to funding totalling EUR 5.85 bln between 2014 and 2020. The first tranche of financial support (EUR 647 mln) allocated to PCIs regards the 34 projects is to be awarded by INEA.
PCIs are divided into three broad categories: electricity infrastructure, gas infrastructure and smart grids. Of the recently awarded projects, the following two stand out for their ambition and potential effectiveness in the electricity sector.
France’s policy decision to reduce the share of nuclear power in the country’s electricity generation mix from 75% to 50% by 2025 means the ElecLink project will prove beneficial.
Presently, France and the U.K. connected via an existing 2 GW link.
The EuroAsia Interconnector is largely ambitious in that it aims to interconnect Europe with Asia, extending the European energy market beyond its borders. It can also be hugely effective for Israel and Cyprus since both countries are energy islands; neither Israel’s nor Cyprus’ electricity networks are linked to neighbouring countries.
The interconnector will also benefit Greece. The country’s previous administration had fought for the project to be included in the PCIs list saying that it could strengthen it geopolitically and improve the economy, introducing competition in the energy market, and thus reducing the overall electricity costs.
However, Greece’s new government does not seem quite so enthusiastic. The recent INEA decision was ignored by the press office of the Greek energy ministry, which publishes press releases on various minor issues. Greece’s new administration is also very protective of the national electricity incumbent, the PPC/DEH utility, and fights the Commission plans for increasing energy competition.
Currently, the EuroAsia Interconnector seems more politically troubled than technically. But since governments continuously change and Greece specifically appears to have national elections every two years or so, this largely significant plan may likely materialise.