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Submitted by on 25 Nov 2013 – 12:08

By Günther H. Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy

Renewable energy, whether generated off the German coast or from solar panels on the roof of your own home: these days, more than just about any other energy sector, this is where investment is going. And rightly so: if we want to achieve our energy and climate targets and maintain our technological lead, then we must invest heavily.

But investing in wind farms, water power or solar energy alone will not be enough: the electricity produced by wind in the North Sea or sun in Spain must find its way to the consumer. We need new electricity connections between south and north, east and west, because economically it is certainly more attractive to produce solar energy in Spain, with twice as many hours of sunshine as Germany, and to produce wind energy in the North Sea rather than anywhere else – and to transport that electricity via power lines to where it is consumed most, in conurbations and cities such as London, Paris or Hamburg. Only if we make optimum use of these geographical advantages and attain a critical mass in production can we reduce costs significantly. We also need storage capacity and smart electricity meters, enabling supply and demand to be optimised so that consumers can save money, for example through favourably‑priced night‑time electricity.

But there is also a huge need for investment in gas networks, above all in order to guarantee security of gas supply. Here, too, we need a genuine internal market and further diversification of the European gas supply via new supply routes in the Caspian region.

If each Member State makes its own plans, however, we stand little chance of creating an internal market in energy. We need a European vision and a long‑term strategy on how the energy infrastructure is to look in the coming decades, or at least the next 20 years. And we need key infrastructure which overcomes bottlenecks and links national markets together. Our new EU infrastructure strategy aims to assist in this. This year, the EU Commission will come forward with a list of key infrastructure projects, which are cross-border or have benefits for two or more Member States. All those on the list will benefit from a much shorter permit granting procedure than is normally the case for such large infrastructure projects – rather than waiting for 10 years or more for a building permit, the so called ‘projects of common interest’ will benefit from an accelerated procedure which generally will not exceed 3 years and 6 months. The procedure will also cut administrative costs by on average of 30% on the promoters’ side.

In addition, these projects may also be eligible for EU co-funding under the new Connecting Europe Facility foreseen for the long term budget 2014-2020. It is clear that the bulk of the investment must be made first and foremost by businesses. But there will be cases where it is simply not worthwhile for firms to expand the networks because the market is simply too small. This applies, for example, to the Baltic countries or Malta. We will therefore also have to discuss whether, in such cases, the EU will provide co-funding for connecting pipelines.

The EU can be a great asset in projects that stretch across borders, which will be more common after the completion of the single energy market. European funds can be used to support infrastructure that benefits more than one Member State. Such examples can be found below.

My aim is to bring Europe closer to the long‑held vision of a European energy policy based on a sound network. Networks are the arteries of our energy system. By investing in them, we will be investing in the economy and helping consumers.

PROJECTS

Gas

EEPR 2009-INTg-RF-CZ-PL

This project is the first gas interconnection between the Czech Republic and Poland, one of the important pieces of a North-South gas corridor in Central-Eastern Europe. It allows gas to flow in both directions that is available for cross-border regions in emergency situations, as well as for reverse-flow towards Slovakia through diversification of supply routes. The EU contribution (EUR 14m) allowed a considerable improvement in the security of supply of a region vulnerable to disruptions.

EEPR 2009-INTg-BE

The reinforcement of the Belgium gas transport network from the German border to Zeebrugge has contributed to the development of the European gas market by providing reverse flow gas capacities on the France–United Kingdom–Belgium–Germany axis. The EU contribution (35M€) helped the project to be realised without any delays and increased the security of supply of the above mentioned axis.

EEPR-2009-INTg-RF-CZ-01

The project is aiming at increasing of transmission capacity through the Czech Republic by 15mcm/d in the northwest-east direction. The implementation of the Action will allow the diversification of gas supplies for the Slovak Republic, Austria, Hungary and Southern Germany (Bavaria).

EEPR 2009-INTg-Baltic-DK

The aim of the project is to maintain and increase gas supply to Denmark, Sweden and the Baltic region, following the decline of gas production in the Danish gas fields. It could also help to increase the security of the gas supply in Central Europe, by supplying consumers with Norwegian Gas. The new infrastructure will enable better market integration, by expanding the gas transmission capacity from the entry point at Ellund, on the Danish/German border. This will also provide an operational link between the German network and the Danish transmission system.

EEPR 2009-INTg-LNG-PL

This project involves the construction of the infrastructure for a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal. It is composed of four parts: an LNG terminal; a docking area; a gas connection pipeline, and infrastructure providing access to the external port, including the breakwater. Once completed, it will provide an important synergy with other planned infrastructure projects. The aim of the project is to increase security of gas supply, by the diversification of suppliers, thus reducing dependency on Russian gas (currently 69 % of Polish gas imports). The project will help to secure approximately 36 % of the current demand for gas in Poland.

Electricity

EEPR 2009-INTe-DE

The interconnector Halle/Saale – Schweinfurt couples the control areas of two independent transmission system operators, namely the North-Eastern part of Germany of 50Hertz Transmission GmbH and the South-Western part of TenneT TSO GmbH. The transmission line will be mainly designed as an overhead line. The interconnector is important because it connects wind farms in Northern Sea with the main consumption centres in Germany. The expected date for the completion of the project is end 2017

EEPR 2009-INTe-Nordbalt01

Nordbalt01 will transmit electricity between Sweden and Lithuania. This is one of the preconditions for the integration of future power market between the Baltic Member States and Nord Pool Spot. The new submarine cable connection will play an important role in the development of the electricity market in the Baltic Sea region. In addition, Nordbalt will also increase the reliability of the Baltic power system while decreasing its dependency on the Russian power supply. The NordBalt01 project comprises the interconnection of the Swedish and Lithuanian electricity systems by a High Voltage Direct current submarine and land cable with a capacity of 700MW. The general outline of the project is to allow power to be transmitted between the Swedish and Lithuanian electricity transmission systems. The project is being implemented by the Swedish and Lithuanian TSOs. The completion of the project is anticipated by mid-2016.

EEPR 2009-INTe-Nordbalt02

In line with the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) road map, the Baltic States will introduce an electricity market based on NordPool principles. It is necessary to develop infrastructure in order to provide possibility for external market players to join the electricity market in the Baltic States. Thus it is necessary to develop Baltic interconnection with other EU countries: Sweden, Finland and Poland. In addition to this it is necessary to develop internal infrastructure in order to provide possibility for significant amount of electricity to be transferred via Baltic transmission network. Nordbalt 02 aims to remove existing bottlenecks in Riga region 330 kV transmission network and reduced loading of 110 kV Riga Ring transmission lines, which will in turn unburden the connection of new 110 kV substations in Riga to the existing 110 kV transmission network. The interconnector will significantly improve power supply reliability and security in case of emergencies and repairs to the transmission grid. It will help increase the availability and reliability of transit flow in the Latvian-Lithuanian direction and to reduce restrictions in the transmission network in that region. In addition, Nordbalt02 will establish a sufficiently reliable power transit and power flow corridor significantly increasing the reliability and efficiency of network use for the Baltic power market developments. The expected date for the completion of the project is end 2013.

EEPR 2009-INTe-Estlink2

The new submarine cable connection is important for the development of the electricity market in the Baltic Sea region as it will increase the electricity transmission capacity between Finland and Estonia by up to 1 000 MW. This is particularly relevant, as it is one of the preconditions for the integration of the future power market between the Baltic Member States and Nord Pool Spot. In addition, Estlink 2 will also increase the reliability of the Baltic power system while reducing its dependency on the Russian power supply. Estliknk2 includes grid connections in Finland, grid reinforcements and interconnections in Estonia as well as an HVDC cable line between Finland and Estonia. The rated power of the planned Estlink 2 HVDC interconnection will be 650MW with a DC voltage of 450 kV. The HVDC section will consist of ca 145 km HVDC submarine cable, ca 11 km HVDC underground cable in Estonia and ca 14 km HVDC overhead lines in Finland. Conventional Line Commutated Converter (LCC) technology will be used in converter stations. The project significantly contributes to the further interconnection of the Nordic and Baltic electricity market with the aim to create a common electricity market. Estlink02 is expected to finish by end 2014.

EEPR 2009-INTe-IRL-UK

The East-West Interconnector (EWI) project involved the construction of a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cable, capable of carrying 500MW from County Meath in Ireland to Deeside in Wales (United Kingdom), and vice versa. The Project progressed very closely to schedule and was completed in due course, September 2012. Consequent commissioning tests followed to make EWI fully operational since December 2012. A very positive aspect was the permanent consultation with the public and other stakeholders, thus making possible efficient and timely management of permits. This is the first electrical interconnection between Ireland and the isle of Great Britain and is considered a European Interest Priority Project according to the guidelines of the Trans-European networks for Energy. The HVDC interconnector operates on direct current (DC) between the two converter stations. The EWI cable is approximately 256km in length, broken down into 185km of marine (under sea) cable and 71km of terrestrial cable (below ground). The converter stations turn the direct current to alternating current (AC) for onward transmission on the networks in the UK and Ireland. The EU, through the EEPR scheme, contributes up to €110,000 million (about 32% of the total).

The project will:

– enhance security of supply and diversification of sources of energy to the Irish electrical system

– underpin further all-island and regional energy market development

– facilitate the integration of wind generated energy in the system- promote further competition in the electricity market as it will allow third party access

EEPR 2009-INTe-FR-ES

The electricity interconnection between France and Spain, when completed by end 2014, will double the interconnection capacity between France and Spain (from 3 to 6%). The project will increase the security of the Spanish electrical system and help to reduce the likelihood of blackouts. It will allow for the integration of renewable energies produced in Spain (wind, hydro, and solar) into the European grid and expand trade between Spain and France. Following the decision of the Spanish and French authorities to underground the high voltage line after 20 years of intense opposition from the local population, the EU aid (220M€) secured the financial needs of the project which increased substantially due to the higher cost of an undergrounded line compared to an aerial line (7 times higher).

EEPR 2009-INTe-ES-PT

The two electricity interconnections between Spain and Portugal (Douro and Algarve regions) aim to upgrade and extent the Portuguese electricity network to increase exchange capacities between Portugal and Spain. Since their completion in 2012, these projects have increased security of supply of the region, contributed to the development of the Iberian Electricity markets and connected the Algarve and Douro regions to sources of renewable energy. The EU contribution (46.4M€) secured the construction of the projects in a situation of financial and economic crisis where Portugal has been highly impacted.