Despite increasingly loud calls for smart grid investment as part of Europe’s overhaul of its energy transmission network, the EU has selected only two such projects among the 250 selected for its first list of ‘projects of common interest’ (PCI).
The Commission today released the list of the first 250 PCI to benefit from fast-track permitting, improved regulatory conditions and, crucially, a slice of the 5.85 billion (US$7.9 billion) budget allocated to energy infrastructure projects under the political bloc’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
The PCI list which will be updated every two years does include 140 electricity transmission and storage projects to upgrade the network and help integrate an increasing share of renewable generation but with smart grids seen as key to renewables take-up, only two projects made the cut.
The Green-Me scheme is targeted principally at boosting the integration of photovoltaic generation into the French and Italian grids by adding automation, control and monitoring systems in primary substations.
The other smart grid project to make the PCI list is the North Atlantic Green Zone Projects aimed at lowering wind power curtailment and affecting the Republic of Ireland, the UK and Northern Ireland.
The highlighted projects will benefit from a streamlined permitting process which includes faster environmental assessments and a maximum permitting process of 3.5 years. Projects may also be eligible for CEF funding which appears to have been raised to 5.85 billion from the 5.1 billion originally allocated.
The project list immediately came under fire from The Climate Parliament a coalition of global politicians attempting to drive renewables take-up for failing to fund transmission links between Europe and the deserts of north Africa and the Middle East, an echo of the aims of the Desertec Foundation.
‘Missed opportunity for desert solar’
Climate Parliament chairman and European Parliament member for South West England and Gibraltar, Sir Graham Watson, described the PCI list as a ‘missed opportunity for desert solar.’
"Other than a cluster of interconnections around Greece, Cyprus and Israel, there are no projects on the list that could connect Europe to the plentiful and cheap solar power potential of north Africa and the Middle East," said Sir Graham. "It is disappointing too that the ambitious UK-France-Spain line appears to have been dropped."
Sir Graham did, however, welcome proposed interconnectors between the UK and Norway, Norway and Germany and across the Pyrenees as well as projects linking EU member states with neighboring countries in south east Europe.
The PCI list which highlights projects associated with nine electricity, gas and oil ‘priority corridors’ as well as those related to smart grids, carbon dioxide transport and electricity highways also includes 100 gas-related projects.
The four electricity priority corridors run in the east and west of the EU as well as forming the Baltic energy market interconnection plan and the northern seas offshore grid.