France and Ireland can be leaders on climate change within the EU and the planned Celtic Interconnector running from east Cork to Brittany can be a key part of that.
That was the message from Midleton yesterday, where French and Irish energy professionals and politicians met to put ink to a joint application for European Commission funding for the mammoth project.
The cost of the high-voltage undersea electricity cable project is estimated at €930m and an application is being made to the European Commission’s 2019 Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Energy Programme for at least €600-€700m of that.
The two countries’ energy regulators have agreed that 65% of the project’s costs will be allocated to Ireland and 35% to France.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney described it as a ‘significant project for Ireland’.
“This is a big one for Cork and for Ireland, a-billion euro project,” he said. “It will ensure we have price competition on the Irish electricity grid, which will be very good for businesses and consumers in Ireland. If there is electricity being sold a lot cheaper in France, then it can be purchased through this connector.
“It is also going to be a big opportunity for us to export renewable energy in the future. In my view, Ireland will be one of Europe’s leading countries for renewable - wave energy, onshore and offshore wind energy. The French need more renewables and I think there will be a strong demand to pay a price premium for that. This is a big, good news story.”
The project is being spearheaded by electricity grid operator EirGrid and its French counterpart Réseau de Transport d’Electricité (RTÉ) and Eirgrid Chief Executive described it the signing as a ‘wonderful day for Ireland and for France’.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said the connection was important in the context of both climate change and Brexit.
“The Celtic Interconnector is a crucial project in the context of our plan to respond to climate change,” he said. “Not only is it important for the security of our energy supply in the years to come, but it will enable us to reach our ambitious renewable electricity target of 70% by 2030, greatly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
“But there are times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow and then we will need the backup of the Interconnector. It is also important bearing in mind our only current interconnection is with the UK.”
France’s Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition Francois de Rugy said: “I am proud and happy to support this ambitious project, a landmark for French-Irish cooperation, for the European energy market and for its transition towards low-carbon energies.”
The Tánaiste also thanked the French Ambassador for his country’s support during Brexit negotiations and expressed every confidence in the European Commission to finance the project.
“I would like to express our thanks for the solidarity shown by France. The French have shown extraordinary understanding of the issues. The EU is at its best when united. We appreciate the support of the French Government on this project.
“We can count on the Commission, which has been such a friend to Ireland, to do the right thing and support this project.”