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EU agrees measures to speed up grid links for renewables

The EU has agreed measures to aid the extension and building of the cross-border electrcity networks – including a North Sea grid – that it says are vital for renewables development.

A political agreement on draft legislation has been reached between the European Parliament and the EU Council. “This is really a breakthrough and will give a big push to much-needed infrastructure,” says Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

The European Commission (EC) first unveiled its €9.1bn package to leverage investment to modernise and extend Europe’s energy infrastructure in October 2011. It wants to eliminate unnecessary delays in authorisation procedures for new priority power lines, including offshore grids.

Rather than waiting 12 years or more for a permit, developers of crucial cross-border infrastructure – such as power grids and pipelines – will obtain permits within a new three-and-a-half years time limit set by the Parliament and Council.

The rules for faster issuing of permits will only apply to projects deemed to be “of common interest” – namely infrastructure that benefits more than one EU member state. The EC cites as examples grids used to deliver power from offshore wind farms and innovative electricity storage initiatives, as well as complex gas pipeline projects.

The agreement covers the new three-and-a-half year permitting and planning deadlines, and also identifies four “priority corridors” for building the necessary infrastructure around the requirements of renewable energy.

These are: The Northern Seas offshore grid; North-south interconnections in western Europe; North-south interconnections in central and southeastern Europe; The Baltic Sea energy market interconnection.

“This agreement is very positive. Developing electricity infrastructure is absolutely vital to developing the internal market, improving energy security and integrating large quantities of wind energy,” says Justin Wilkes, policy director at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

“The more than 140GW of offshore wind power currently being planned by European utilities, developers and governments by 2030 requires a big step forward in offshore grid development.

“It is now vital that the European Commission’s proposal for €9.1bn for energy infrastructure is maintained during the current negotiations on the 2014 to 2020 EU budget,” he adds.