EC names 250 priority projects

The European Commission has unveiled a list of 250 energy infrastructure projects eligible to share €5.85bn ($7.93bn) of funding.

The so-called ‘projects of common interest’ will benefit from fast-track planning and reduced administrative costs in a bid to boost trans-European energy infrastructure from 2014 to 2020.

They will also have the chance to apply for funding from the budget pool, although this will not necessarily follow.

The Commission hopes the funds will trigger more private investment. It has been estimated that €100bn is needed to improve transmission lines as part of a single, connected EU energy market with an increasing share of renewable power.

Under the streamlined process, approval should take a maximum of three years and six months.

The list includes up to 140 projects in the electricity transmission and storage sector, around 100 in gas transmission, storage and liquefied natural gas, two smart grids and several oil projects.

Paul Wilczek, senior regulatory affairs advisor for the European Wind Energy Association, tells Recharge, that the most prominent cross-border and infrastructure projects in Europe are included in the list.

These include plans for electricity interconnectors between the UK and Norway,  Norway and Germany,  Ireland and France, and Cyprus and Greece.  Also on the list is a Belgian offshore hub, which could connect to the UK.

Projects designed to transmit large-scale wind power from Ireland to the UK are also included.

However, while individual interconnectors between countries are on the list there was no mention of the European supergrid.

“The fact that there are very few potential meshed offshore grid projects and zero supergrid projects on the list is a sign that political momentum needs to pick up in order to benefit from the huge cost reductions such grids would bring,” says Wilczek.

“The EU’s infrastructure package is a sound legislative vehicle to bring these badly needed projects forward. What is needed now is more political willingness and the right regulatory frameworks at national level to stimulate investors’ appetite for this type of innovative infrastructure,” he adds.

British Liberal MEP Graham Watson criticised the absence of solar projects from the list. “The list is a missed opportunity for desert solar,” he says.

“Other than a cluster of interconnections around Greece, Cyprus and Israel, there are no projects on the list that could connect Europe to the plentiful and cheap solar power potential of North Africa and the Middle East.

“ It is disappointing too that the ambitious UK-France-Spain line appears to have been dropped,” he adds. “But there is also much to welcome.”

The two smart grid projects on the list are from Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic, and from France to Italy.

The European Commission had originally aimed to complete its single energy market by 2014, but has admitted this deadline will not be achieved.