Today the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met in Madrid with the President of France François Hollande, the Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy and the Prime Minister of Portugal Pedro Passos Coelho to agree on ways to strengthen the connections of the Iberian Peninsula with the rest of the EU energy market.
The Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete and the President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer have also attended the meeting. Building missing cross-border links is a priority for the Juncker Commission. A well-connected European energy market is crucial for creating an Energy Union and key driver to strengthen the security of energy supply across Europe. The leaders agreed to set up a High Level Group to step up the efforts to develop energy interconnections in South-West Europe and ensure that all the present and planned project are implemented in time.
President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "We have agreed today on the first concrete deliverables of the European Energy Union. Today we have initiated a unique process of regional convergence on energy and that I would like to see more and more across Europe. We have paved way for new investments and better energy interconnections strengthening the links between France, Portugal and Spain. With the projects agreed today we are increasing the diversification of electricity and gas supplies in Europe. The steps agreed today will take us towards our common goal: a better connected European market and more security of supply to all Europeans."
Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: "Today marks a crucial step towards ending the isolation of the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of the internal energy market. Only a fully interconnected market will improve Europe's security of supply, ending the dependence of single suppliers and give consumers more choice. Highways do not step at national borders, and neither should pipes and cables. This summit shows the commitment of the Juncker Commission to get the hardware of the Energy Union built on the ground and making a difference."
The new High-Level Group for South-West Europe, which will deal with both gas and electricity infrastructure, will drive identification and implementation of key infrastructure projects and ensure regular monitoring. To support the work of the High Level Group, the Commission has launched a study on the benefits, costs and the technical options for further electricity interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. The first results of the study will be available mid-April 2015. A similar study on gas interconnections will follow shortly.
The lack of sufficient interconnection capacity remains a major obstacle for the creation of an electricity market in South-West Europe and it has prevented Iberian energy companies from participating in the EU electricity market. With the arrival of the Juncker Commission, energy interconnection between the Iberian Peninsula and the EU internal market has gained a new momentum - in January 2015 the Transmission System Operators of France, Spain and Portugal signed a common strategy paper to develop further interconnection links. The Commission facilitates and encourages this cooperation and will now ensure that the common strategy agreed by the three TSOs will be effectively implemented.
On 20 February 2015 the Santa Llogaia – Baixàs power line, which doubles the interconnection capacity between France and Spain was inaugurated. The project received €225 million in EU support under the European Energy Programme for Recovery. Furthermore, in the context of the first call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility, the Commission has supported with €3,25 million studies for the Biscay Bay project of common interest, a planned sub-sea cable connecting France and Spain.
In addition to the financing opportunities provided to infrastructure projects of common interest (PCIs) under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the European Structural and Investment Funds, the recently proposed European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) could further support key interconnection projects, therefore accelerating and complementing the current structure of European financial assistance.
A new call for proposals under CEF has been launched today with more information available via a press release on 5 March 2015.
On 25 February 2015 the Commission launched its Energy Union strategy. As a concrete element of the strategy the Commission presented a communication on how to achieve an electricity interconnection of 10% in all Member States by 2020.
On 13 January 2015, the Commission proposed the creation of a European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) to significantly improve EU investment projects' access to long term financing. This instrument could cover PCIs or other interconnection projects put forward, therefore accelerating and complementing the current structure of support for PCIs and beyond. The Fund is at the very heart of the Commission's Growth, Jobs and Investment package. The EFSI will mobilise at least EUR 315 billion in private and public investment across the EU, alongside an EU budget contribution of EUR 16 billion and a contribution of EUR 5 billion from the EIB.