EU member states and the European Parliament have brokered an agreement on the Connecting Europe Facility Fund (CEF). With a proposed budget of up to €30bn, the CEF will support the roll out of high-performing, sustainable trans-European networks in transport, energy, broadband and digital services between 2014 and 2020. The move could spell a new era for Ireland in terms of reducing its energy dependency on other states and also to help the country capitalise on its renewable energy resources.
At European level, the CEF has been specifically designed to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment. Up to almost €30bn of EU funding will be directed towards enhancing the energy, transport and telecoms networks of the EU – starting from 2014.
Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, TD, has this morning, welcomed the agreement between the EU member states and the European Parliament on the CEF.
“The CEF ought to, in particular, be important in re-enforcing Irish energy security,” he said.
According to Rabbitte, a variety of projects that would increase interconnectivity between Ireland and the rest of Europe could be eligible for funding under this facility over the next few years.
“As a result, this island should be less vulnerable to price volatility or network outages,” he said.
Energy security and reducing ‘energy islands’
In terms of energy developments in Ireland, the country opened its first electricity link with Britain (the East-West Interconnector) last September. The semi-state company EirGrid built the interconnector in order to carry electricity both ways, to help improve security of supply and to help spur the growth of renewable energy generation.
Rabbitte has also been in negotiations with Ed Davey, the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, on wagering a deal for the exporting of excess wind energy to the UK. In January, Davey and Rabbitte met in Dublin where they signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Irish and UK governments to progress plans for renewable energy trading.
At the time, Rabbitte said both countries would look at the complex engineering and market issues to make the infrastructural changes in order to support this transition.
He said that if both governments can resolve such issues, this could signal an inter-governmental agreement in 2014 to provide a formal basis for energy trading.
Energy trading and European single energy market – the scope
As for energy security in general, and reducing Ireland ‘s energy dependency on other nations, Rabbitte set out his goals in 2012.
When the CEF comes into force, it is set to provide financial support for those projects identified in “sectoral guidelines” that cannot be financed fully by the market.
This could be particularly relevant in the context of ending the isolation of ‘energy islands’, harnessing renewable energy resources in countries such as Ireland, and in completing a single European energy market.
Climate and energy goals
In terms of EU energy policy, the CEF Regulation is also aiming to complement the recently finalised trans-European energy infrastructure guidelines in areas such as electricity, gas, oil and CO2 emissions.
The CEF will enable the EU to meet its broader climate and energy goals, while ensuring security of supply and solidarity among member states, the Irish Government said today.
The European Commission first recommended the setting up of the CEF in June 2011 as part of its EU budget proposal for the next multi-annual financial framework (MFF) that will run from next year until 2020.
The CEF’s two co-legislators – the European Parliament and the European Council – are expected to adopt the programme before the end of the year.
Circuit board background connecting Europe image via Shutterstock