EU?s ?9.1 billion infrastructure package will electrify Europe

The European Commission yesterday unveiled a €9.1 billion plan to modernise and extend Europe’s energy infrastructure to help meet Europe’s climate and energy needs. The announcement was widely covered by the media.

“This is the very first time that the EU is co-financing the construction of large energy infrastructure from its regular budget,” the Commission said.

EU affairs website Euractiv reported that the money will be made available under the proposed EU budget for 2014 – 2020 “in the form of newly-minted project bonds, grants and loan guarantees.” These will be awarded to projects of ‘common interest’ – i.e. spanning at least two EU countries.

An offshore grid in the North Sea to transport energy from North Sea wind farm plants to the shore is identified as an example of a project of common interest.

However, Euractiv pointed out that it is not yet clear what proportion of the funding pot will be spent on renewable energy and what share will go to gas projects. “Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger declined to answer a question from EurActiv about what percentage of the €9.1 billion he wanted to see spent on renewable projects.”

Claude Turmes, MEP for the Green Party, said the proposal was “seriously skewed.” “The distortion in favour of gas is particularly evident in the proposed priority corridors, with four related to gas and only one entirely devoted to renewable energy transmission,” he said according to Euractiv.

But Greenpeace welcomed the move. Frauke Thies, EU energy campaigner, hailed the package as a step forward saying, “a grid that allows more renewable power into the system and puts the market to work to bring down the cost of clean electricity is a grid worth building.”

Meanwhile Eurelectric welcomed the new package saying, “infrastructure is the backbone of the EU energy system. Investments urgently need to be directed towards it to allow Europe to complete the internal energy market, connect renewable generation, and enhance networks’ resilience and supply security”, the group said.

Friends of the Super Grid also backed the plan saying it will allow “the integration of large quantities of renewable energy across Europe and significant progress towards the creation of the internal electricity market.” Meanwhile, ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, said the “proposal addresses the most critical issues for the development of the electricity infrastructure required for Europe to meet its ambitious energy policy objectives.”

Reuters reported that Sanjeev Kumar from E3G said: “we have never built a common infrastructure by design. It shows we are learning from our mistakes.”

European Wind Energy Association said it fully supports the Commission’s plans to eliminate unnecessary delays in authorisation procedures for European power lines “It is not necessary for authorisation to build new electricity grids to take over ten years, and this proposal will help to reduce these delays” said CEO
Christian Kjaer.

Last month 15 organisations including European Wind Energy Association, Eurelectric and Friends of the Supergrid published a statement calling for the free movement of electricity in the EU.

Zoë Casey,