An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar and Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton have today (Wednesday the 2nd of October) confirmed a €530 million investment in the Celtic Interconnector by the European Commission to link Ireland with Europe's energy grid.
The €1 billion Celtic Interconnector will connect Ireland's electricity network to France via an underwater connection. Once built, its 700 megawatts capacity will power 450,000 households, and help Ireland to switch to 70% renewable energy as set out in the Government's Climate Action Plan.
A vital part of Project Ireland 2040, the Interconnector is likely to drive down electricity prices for the consumer through increased competition. And because Ireland will be able to join the European Internal Energy market, we can maintain higher levels of wind and renewable energy.
Once Britain leaves the EU, Ireland will have no electricity interconnection with any member of the European Union. By providing a direct electricity link with mainland Europe, Ireland will be connected to the EU's Internal Energy Market post-Brexit.
An Taoiseach said:
"This is a really significant investment for Ireland and will help us to conduct a magnificent feat of engineering. The Celtic Interconnector will help to lower electricity prices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide greater energy security. It's a direct result of our close working relationship with the European Commission including President Juncker, and France and President Macron, who will be our closest EU neighbours following Brexit. It's a signal of European solidarity at this crucial time."
Minister Bruton said,
"This vital piece of infrastructure is crucial to delivering the step up required to meet the climate challenge. As well as the clear benefits in terms of improved security and diversification of electricity supply, it will also, importantly, facilitate the further development of renewable energy, helping us meet our 70% target. We can also expect consumer prices to come down as operators work in a more competitive market."
The investment was secured under the EU's Connecting Europe Facility. The application was made possible by the status of the Celtic Interconnector as a Project of Common Interest (PCI). Projects with PCI status are recognised as essential for completing the European Internal Energy Market and for reaching the EU's energy policy objectives of affordable, secure and sustainable energy.
The project is being jointly developed by EirGrid and its French counterpart Réseau de Transport d'Électricité (RTE), and has, over several years, been supported by Ireland during the EU PCI process which has ultimately made the grant possible.
EirGrid's CEO, Mark Foley, said
"The ambition of the Government's Climate Action Plan challenges EirGrid to evolve the grid to accommodate ever-increasing levels of renewables and interconnection is one of the key enablers to meet those challenges. Our staff are on the ground in Cork regularly, engaging with local communities and ensuring they have a real say in the project's design. With this grant and with the support of those communities we can envisage that construction on the project could start as early as 2022 and be completed by 2026."
Note for Editors
Further interconnection is crucial to our climate ambitions as set out in the Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown.
The Celtic interconnector will improve security of electricity supply in Ireland and France by providing a reliable high-capacity link between the two countries, diversifying our sources of supply, increase competition in the all-island Single Electricity Market and support the development of renewable energy, particularly in Ireland. The proposed 700 megawatts capacity will add to available generation capacity levels and assist in meeting future demand growth.
The Irish Government has been supportive of the proposed Celtic interconnector to France from its inception, recognising the importance of a direct electricity link to continental Europe, all the more so now in the context of Brexit. The Celtic Interconnector is an energy infrastructure project of the highest national significance and was highlighted as such in Project 2040.
The project has been designated as an EU "Project of Common Interest" (PCI), meaning it is considered to be an energy infrastructure project of the highest priority within the EU. Under the PCI process both project promoters submitted "investment requests" to their respective National Regulatory Authorities (NRA) – the Irish NRA is the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) - last September. The NRAs have a defined role in the process to determine if the proposed project is in the public interest. On 29 April 2019 the NRAs published papers indicating that the project would be in the public interest in both France and Ireland if a substantial grant could be secured from the EU Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) fund.
The project promoters submitted an application to the European Commission under the CEF for financial assistance on 13 June 2019. An Taoiseach and President Macron submitted a joint letter in support of the application.
The Celtic Interconnector was previously awarded €4m in CEF investment funding. This investment supported the last phase of the project, that of Initial Design and Pre-Consultation, including an in-depth economic assessment of the project; a suite of technical and environmental studies; and pre-consultation activities in preparation for possible future permit granting procedures in France and Ireland.