Brussels, 16 September 2014
State aid: Commission approves €86.6 million French aid for SuperGrid research programme to develop innovative energy transmission networks
The European Commission has concluded that the aid granted by France to the Supergrid Institut pour la transition énergétique for a research project aimed at developing a new generation of long-distance energy transmission networks complies with the EU rules on State aid. It will promote important European objectives such as securing energy supplies and protecting the environment without unduly distorting competition.
Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice President responsible for competition, stated: ‘Securing energy independence and reducing CO2 emissions in Europe are key priorities for the Commission. The SuperGrid project pursues these very objectives. The project will have an undeniable scientific impact, while the distortions of competition will be limited.’
The SuperGrid networks will use high-voltage direct and alternating current (up to a million volts) designed for the large-scale transmission of energy from renewable sources, many of them off-shore, 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.
In 2013 France notified its plans to grant a subsidy of €86.6 million to SAS SuperGrid, a start-up established to manage the public-private partnership created for this purpose. The Commission reviewed the aid for compatibility with its guidelines on aid for research, development and innovation (R&D&I), adopted in May 2014 (see IP/14/586 end MEMO/14/368).
R&D work will be necessary on long-distance energy transmission (including a new generation of cables), new transformers (including replacement of SF6 - sulfur hexaflouride, a highly toxic gas currently used in gas-insulated substations) and storage and stabilisation technologies. The expertise of a number of partners (6 public and 6 private) will be harnessed to develop the supergrid technologies. If the R&D projects prove successful, patent licences will be sold to interested industrial firms on market terms.
On completing its review, the Commission concluded that the SuperGrid project suffered from market failures justifying the use of public aid and that the aid gave enterprises a necessary and sufficient incentive to change their behaviour and carry out a project they would not otherwise have undertaken. Given the openness of the technology markets and the scope for exploiting the intellectual property rights arising from the project, there was no risk of competition being distorted.
The global supergrid market comprises network electrotechnical systems, energy flow management systems, and cables. The project will also make it possible to target related markets, in particular the rail transport powertrain market and the variable‑speed hydraulic pump-turbine market.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be published in the State aid register under number SA.37178 on the DG Competition website , once all confidentiality issues have been resolved. The electronic newsletter "State aid Weekly e-News", lists the latest State aid decisions published in the Official Journal and on the website.