EU to contribute €530m to €1bn Irish-French power line

Electricity interconnector will carry enough power for 450,000 homes

The new cable will connect the Cork and Breton coasts. Photograph: iStock

The new cable will connect the Cork and Breton coasts. Photograph: iStock

 

The European Commission will fund over half of the €1 billion Celtic interconnector which will connect Ireland’s electricity network to France.

The project, which is expected to take ten years to complete, will involve an underwater connection across the Irish Sea to the North West coast of France.

The interconnector will be the first directly connecting Ireland to the European mainland, and the first with no link to Britain. It will be received as an important piece of infrastructure to protect security of supply for Ireland in a post-Brexit scenario.

National electricity grid operator, Eirgrid, and its French equivalent, RTE, intend connecting the Cork and Breton coasts with a cable that will transmit enough energy to power about 450,000 homes.

The announcement of €530 m in funding from the EU Commission was made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday at a media event also attended by Minister for Communications Richard Bruton and Minister for Business and Enterprise Heather Humphreys.

Mr Varadkar said ireland had not expected to get that level of funding from the EU for the project.

“€530 million is pretty huge,” he said.

He said the benefit of the interconnector would work in two ways. When wind was blowing in Ireland and there was a surfeit of renewable energy, it will be possible to see it on to Europe via the interconnector. Conversely, when it is calm in Ireland or when there is peak demand, a ready supply will be available from France.

Biggest in Ireland

The interconnector will be the biggest built in Ireland so far, 700 megawatts compared to the 500 megawatt connection between Ireland and Wales.

The Celtic Interconnector will be roughly 600km long and will be able to transmit electricity in both directions. Most gas-fired power plants in the Republic generate around 400MW.

Mr Bruton said the new facility when finished will help Ireland to switch to 70 per cent renewable energy by 2030, as set out in the Climate Action Plan.

“We can also expect consumer prices to come down as operators work in a more competitive market,” said Mr Bruton.

The funding was secured under the EU’s Connecting Europe facility, which identified it as a project of common interest, in other words one that is seen as essential for completing the European Internal Energy Market.

Mr Bruton said it would also allow the Government to build up its capacity for renewals on the grid.

And, he said it would help in “electrifying our transport fleets and getting people to move to sustainable heating systems in their own homes”.

The funds will come from the commission’s Connecting Europe Facility programme, which funds trans-European infrastructure.

In a statement announcing the funding, the EU executive said the high-capacity power line would improve the security of electricity supply in both Ireland and France.

The commission is backing the project as it will help to further integrate the EU’s electricity network and market.

Separately, there is a planned north-south interconnector that is pencilled to go ahead notwithstanding Brexit. However, the project has been stalled by community protests along the route. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of An Bord Pleanála for the southern section of the project.