Plans for €1bn France-Ireland electricity cable move a step closer

Irish and French energy suppliers sign EU funding application

French minister François de Rugy  with Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

French minister François de Rugy with Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

 

Plans for a €1 billion million high voltage sub electricity cable connecting Ireland and France moved a step forward on Friday as the Irish and French energy suppliers involved in the project met at the Midleton Distillery in East Cork to sign a joint application for EU Commission funding of up to €750 million. The balance for the project will come from commercial revenue.

EirGrid and its French equivalent Réseau de Transport d’Electricité (RTE) are submitting a request for funding for the Celtic Interconnector under the Commission’s 2019 Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Energy Programme.

Mark Foley, CEO of Eirgrid and François Brottes, chairman of the executive board of RTE, signed a request for funding on Friday following a short ceremony. Other attendees included Tánaiste Simon Coveney, France’s Minister for Ecology François de Rugy and Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

The Tánaiste said the interconnector will be able to import and export up to 750 megawatts of electricity, the equivalent of supplying power to around 500,000 homes.

“This is a big one for Ireland. This is a €1 billion project. It is a big big piece of infrastructure. It is coming in to East Cork just east of Midleton connecting with Brittany.

What this will do is two things. It will ensure that we will have price competition in the Irish electricity grid which is going to be very good for business and for consumers in Ireland. If there is electricity which is being sold a lot cheaper in France then it can be purchased through this interconnector to make sure that our consumers and our businesses are getting a fair price for electricity.

But it is also going to be a good opportunity for us to export renewable energy in the future. From an energy and security point of view, from a price and competition point of view and from a renewables perspective this is a good news story. It is a very big story both for East Cork and for electricity connection between Ireland and France.”

The Tánaiste said Ireland’s relationship with France is one of enduring friendship and affinity and that initiatives like the Celtic Interconnector are tangible manifestations of the policies put in place at European level to tackle the big issues that no one Member State can address alone.

Meanwhile, Minister Bruton said that the project is vitally important for Ireland at this critical juncture.

“For us it is particularly important as you know following Brexit we will have no interconnection with Europe. This is the first project we will have where we will form a connection with the European mainland. Europe has set a target that we should have ten percent interconnection between our European networks and with the exit of Britain our 7.5 percent will disappear.

We have ambitions to achieve a net zero carbon emission by 2050 and we are committed to achieving seventy percent renewables on our electricity bill by 2030. That is a very ambitious target. We do need the back up of an interconnection. This interconnection will facilitate us achieving the climate targets that we really need to achieve.”

Minister de Rugy said he was pleased to be able to support this ambitious project.

“It is a landmark for French-Irish cooperation, for the European energy market and for its transition towards low-carbon energies.

François Brottes of RTE said committing Europe to energy transition requires ever more solidarity with regards to electricity transmission.

“The construction of this new Celtic Interconnector will strengthen the resilience of the European electricity network.”

Today’s ceremony follows the signing earlier this week in Brussels by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and France’s President Emmanuel Macron of a letter offering their respective Governments’ support for the project.

Since 2011, EirGrid and RTE have carried out series of joint studies into the feasibility of the interconnector. These studies indicate that if built, an interconnector between the two countries would benefit electricity customers in Ireland, France and the EU.

EirGrid is currently running an eight-week public consultation on the project. It is seeking feedback on three possible landfall locations on the coast of East Cork for the cable. It was also seeking feedback on a shortlist of six proposed location zones for a converter station in East Cork. In France, the interconnector will land on the coast of Brittany, close to the city of Brest.

EirGrid is encouraging communities and stakeholders to share their feedback on the proposed shortlists.

“The shortlists are provisional. Feedback from communities, local representatives, and other stakeholders will be critical to ensuring that we can assess each option fully and make informed decisions when confirming the shortlists,” said Louise Glennon of Eirgrid.

All stakeholders and communities are invited to submit their feedback by Monday, 10 June. This can be done online, by attending public information days, or by email, phone or in writing.

The project is nearing completion of step three of EirGrid’s six-step public consultation framework for infrastructure projects. When this phase of consultation is over and the stakeholder feedback has been analysed, EirGrid will confirm the two shortlists. The shortlisted options will then be subjected to further assessments in order to determine the best performing option for each.