EU to help Ireland cut energy reliance on UK amid Brexit fears
Two big Irish energy projects designed to reduce dependence on Britain are set to benefit from EU funding amid efforts to ease the impact of Brexit.
Brexit has cast doubt over the security of the gas Ireland imports from Britain. As an EU member, Ireland is not allowed to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement.
The Government has thrown its weight behind two new energy import projects: EirGrid and Réseau de Transport d'Électricité Ireland-France electricity link, and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal proposed by a private investment vehicle that took over the project from US energy giant Hess.
"Because all of our electricity and gas interconnections are with Britain, it would be irresponsible of us not to explore all other options," Energy Minister Denis Naughten said.
"We will be available and will assist," he added, saying that the projects may seek funding from Ireland's Strategic Investment Fund.
The European Investment Bank (EIB), which invested some €800m in Ireland last year, said it would be interested in lending money to support the Ireland-France electricity link, also known as the Celtic Interconnector.
"The EIB is very conscious that Ireland is uniquely exposed to the economic consequences of Brexit," EIB vice-president Andrew McDowell said.
"The need to show tangible European support for Ireland is becoming more pressing."
EirGrid said it was focusing on evaluating the cost of the Celtic Interconnector and would concentrate on funding arrangements later. A spokesman for the Shannon LNG project said the company was evaluating its funding options.
Ireland's energy dependence on Britain puts it in a sticky position at Brexit talks. On one hand, a deal that allows Britain maintain its trade ties would mean less interruption to our energy supplies. On the other, Ireland needs to align itself with its EU allies, who can afford a much tougher stance.
Experts are concerned Brexit could jeopardise plans to join the Irish and Northern Irish electricity markets by the end of this year, a project to create a unified Irish electricity market in line with EU legislation.