The European Union is to invest €647.3 million in key energy infrastructure projects aimed to boost energy security and the integration of renewables and markets. A further €86.6 million has been committed for a new supergrid research laboratory.
"I welcome [the] decision, which will help us to quickly build the infrastructure we need to ensure Europe's energy security,” commented Günther H. Oettinger, EC vice president responsible for energy. “The geopolitical crisis has highlighted the need to better connect energy networks. This is also crucial for an integrated energy market where consumers get the best value for their money."
Projects of common interest
The projects are among those that have been identified as 'projects of common interest' (PCI). These comprise 248 energy infrastructure projects, the majority electricity and gas transmission lines (in the first list adopted by the EC in October 2013), which contribute to market integration of at least two European member states.
The projects being funded include 28 studies (preparatory, feasibility and/or environmental), which collectively receive €91.4 million. Six construction works receive the balance of €555.9 million.
Eighteen of the projects are in the electricity sector and 16 in natural gas. However, most of the funding will directly or indirectly finance gas projects. Besides the construction of new pipelines, these projects include terminals to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the Baltic region, Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe. These can be expected to contribute to easing the dependence on gas from Russia, which has become something of a political football. [Engerati-Europe’s Energy Efficiency Plan May Reduce the Need for Russia’s Gas]
European interconnection projects
The six works projects are:
● Interconnection between Kilingi-Nömme in Estonia and Riga in Latvia, contributing to interconnection in the Baltic electricity priority corridor (€112.3 million)
● Internal line between Ventspils, Tume and Imanta in Latvia (€55.1 million)
● Twinning of the Southwest Scotland onshore system between Cluden and Brighouse Bay, contributing to interconnection in the Western Europe north-south gas priority corridor (€33.8 million)
● Construction of the Klaipeda-Kursenai gas transmission pipeline in Lithuania, contributing to Baltic gas market integration (€27.6 million)
● Construction of a gas interconnection, including supporting infrastructure, between Poland and Lithuania (€295.4 million)
● North Atlantic Green Zone Project between Ireland and Northern Ireland – notably one of the only two smart grid projects in the PCI list – which aims to lower wind curtailment by implementing communication infrastructure, enhancing grid control and establishing (cross-border) protocols for demand side management (€31.7 million).
The funding is from the Connecting Europe Facility and normally up to 50% of the eligible costs are financed, or up to 75% in exceptional circumstances. Under the Facility a total of €5.85 billion has been allocated to trans-European energy infrastructure for the period of 2014-2020.
In this first call, 64 eligible proposals were received requesting a total of €1.37 billion. The next call is scheduled for 2015.
In September the EC also approved €86.6 million from the French state's Investissements d'avenir (Investments for the future) program to support the Institut pour la Transition Energétique (ITE), or SuperGrid Institute, headquartered in Villeurbanne, northeast of Lyon in eastern France.
The project is aimed at developing a new generation of ultra-high and high voltage long-distance transmission networks for the large-scale transmission of energy from renewable sources, many of them offshore, that are far from the centres of consumption. These networks, together with flexible storage facilities, will make it possible to manage the intermittent nature of renewables and will ensure network stability and security.
R&D work will cover long-distance energy transmission, including a new generation of cables; new transformers, including replacement of the toxic sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas currently used in gas-insulated substations; and storage and stabilization technologies.
The SuperGrid Institute was initiated by Alstom in January 2014. Partners, whose expertise will be brought together in the project, include Nexans, RTE, EDF, Vettiner (Lyon), Ion Beam Services (Aix-en-Provence), Novasic (Chambéry), Ecole Centrale de Lyon, INSA de Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Institut polytechnique de Grenoble, Supelec, Université Paris Sud, Laboratoire Ampère (Lyon), CremHyg (Grenoble), G2ELab (Grenoble), Laboratoire Signaux et Systèmes (Gif-sur-Yvette).
A European supergrid is envisaged as pan-European network of mixed HVAC and HVDC electricity highways facilitating the integration of large-scale renewable energy and the balancing and transportation of electricity with the aim of improving the European market.
A series of “SuperNodes” would collect, integrate and route energy sources to the best available markets.