The European Commission, on October 14, has adopted a list of 250 key energy infrastructure “projects of common interest” (PCI) that will benefit from accelerated licensing procedures and improved regulatory conditions. These projects may have access to financial support from the Connecting Europe Facility, under which a €5.85 billion budget has been allocated to trans-European energy infrastructure for the period 2014-20. Once completed, the projects will help Member States to integrate their energy markets, enable them to diversify their energy sources and help bring an end to the energy isolation of some Member States. They will also enable the grid to uptake increasing amounts of renewables, and consequently help reduce CO2 emissions.

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: “We have to make sure that our limited funds are used wisely and that EU money goes where it can create most benefits to European consumers. With this list of energy infrastructure projects and their accompanying benefits, we also hope to attract more investors.”

The list includes up to 140 projects in the field of electricity transmission and storage, about 100 projects in the field of gas transmission, storage and LNG, and several oil and smart grids projects. The projects will benefit from a number of advantages:

– accelerated planning and permit granting procedures (binding three-and-a-half-years’ time limit);

– a single national competent authority will act as a one-stop-shop for permit granting procedures;

– less administrative costs for the project promoters and authorities due to a more streamlined environmental assessment procedure, whilst respecting the requirements of Union law.

– increased transparency and improved public participation;

– increased visibility and attractiveness for investors thanks to an enhanced regulatory framework where costs are allocated to the countries that benefit most from a completed project;

– possibility to receive financial support under the Connecting Europe Facility. This will play a key role in leveraging the necessary private and public funding, and possible financing can come in as early as 2014.

For a project to be included in the list, it had to have significant benefits for at least two Member States; contribute to market integration and further competition; enhance security of supply, and reduce CO2 emissions. The Commission will monitor closely the implementation of the permit granting measures and the construction of the projects. Finally, the list of PCIs will be updated every two years with the aim to integrate newly needed projects and remove obsolete ones. The need for investment in energy infrastructure was one of the reasons for proposing the Regulation on the Guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure (TEN-E Guidelines) in 2011. The TEN-E Guidelines provide a strategic framework for the long-term energy infrastructure vision of the European Union and introduce the concept of Projects of Common Interest. They identify nine strategic infrastructure priority corridors in the domains of electricity, gas and oil, and three EU-wide infrastructure priority areas for electricity highways, smart grids and carbon dioxide transportation networks.

Eurelectric in a comment referred to the need for policymakers to not lose sight of the bigger picture: the aim to achieve an EU-wide internal energy market; according to the Commission’s latest quarterly power market report, the spread between day ahead, base-load German and Dutch power prices is increasing, peaking at €24.9 on 20 May 2013. According to Eurelectric this worrying development shows that existing cross-border grid infrastructure is not being used to improve market integration, but to ‘export’ unwanted side-effects of national policies, e.g. policies to expand wind and solar generation, to other European countries.