Electricity links to Europe come back to life to reduce Russian energy
(Bloomberg) — A cable construction project that will bring electricity from Egypt and Israel to Greece is gaining momentum as Europe seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian power.
The link from Egypt and another from Israel via Cyprus are seen as important for energy security amid deteriorating relations with Moscow, the European Union banning oil imports by sea and Russia cutting off supplies in gas from certain buyers in the region. One of the cables is slated to carry only green power, helping the bloc push forward a 210 billion euro ($225 billion) energy plan focused on renewables.
“Power connections to Europe from other sources will clearly provide an opportunity to reduce Russia’s energy dependence,” said Manos Manousakis, chief executive of the Greek power grid operator known as Admie. SA, in an interview in Athens. “And if Europe wants to pursue green energy, it cannot ignore the enormous solar potential of North Africa and the Middle East.”
Read more: EU targets clean energy and LNG as part of plan to reduce reliance on Russia
The projects have the potential to replace not only all the gas Greece gets from Russia, but also some of the supply from its neighbours. Surplus electricity running through the cables will go to other parts of Europe and help ensure the lights don’t go out. The Egyptian link has the support of local government and Greek authorities, and now needs EU funding.
Project developer Elica SA, part of Greece’s Copelouzos group, has submitted a request to include the cables in an EU list of so-called projects of common interest, which will help secure licenses and funding . The company estimates an investment of around €3.5 billion, with Greek banks and the European Investment Bank already set to participate. Admie and the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company are collaborating on the technical design of the link that will directly link mainland Greece.
“The project needs European funding and the hope is to submit a funding request to the European Commission within the next 12 months,” Manousakis said. Construction can begin immediately after approvals are received, he said, adding that the EU “will need to show flexibility in its traditionally rather slow screening process”.
Two-way undersea cables were first planned in 2008, but were delayed due to a change of government in Egypt following the Arab Spring protests. The 3 gigawatt capacity lines will take about six to eight years to complete, depending on timelines for similar projects. It would use some of the energy from Egypt’s plans to increase renewable energy capacity to 61 gigawatts by 2035 from 6.4 GW currently, according to Elica. Greece would also use some of the electricity to produce green hydrogen, some of which could also be exported to Europe.
Admie is also working to ensure that infrastructure is upgraded and expanded to allow surplus electricity to be sent to other parts of Europe, Manousakis said. The network manager and the Italian Terna are studying the feasibility of a second link of up to 1 gigawatt between the two countries. It has also started examining a new connection with Albania and expanding an existing connection with North Macedonia. Furthermore, studies are underway for additional connections between the European and Turkish electricity systems.
A more advanced project is the EuroAsia interconnector which will connect the networks of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, Manousakis said. The 1,208 kilometer (751 mile) long cable will be able to supply electricity produced from gas reserves in Cyprus and Israel, as well as from renewable energy sources.
The first stage of the project, estimated to cost around 2.5 billion euros, will see a total transmission capacity of 1,000 megawatts, which will double after the next phase. The construction work should be completed at the end of 2025 for commissioning in the first half of 2026.
The EU agreed in January to provide €657 million in funding for the section that will connect Cyprus to the Greek island of Crete. This amount is in addition to the 100 million euros already granted by the EU recovery fund. Cyprus is currently the only EU member not connected to the European network.
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