EU to fund more than half of €1bn electricity connection with France
The EU has agreed to cover more than half the cost of a new €1bn electricity network connection between Ireland and France in a further signal of Brussels's strong solidarity with Dublin over Brexit.
The European Commission will invest €530m of funding into the Celtic Interconnector project that aims to link Ireland's electricity grid with continental Europe's.
It will connect the State's electricity network with France's via underwater cabling.
It follows nearly a decade of negotiations between EirGrid and its French equivalent Réseau de Transport d'Electricité (RTE).
The Government believes that the connection will be particularly important for Ireland's energy security in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU, as it will lose around three-quarters of its interconnection with other European networks once Brexit happens.
The interconnector's 700MW capacity will power some 450,000 households, and the Government claims that it will help switch Ireland to 70pc renewable energy as part of its climate action plan.
However, construction is not likely to start until 2022 and completion is unlikely until 2026 at the earliest.
Speaking at the announcement yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "By connecting Ireland's electricity grid to France and that of continental Europe it means that when the wind is blowing in Ireland we can export it to the continent and when the wind is not blowing in Ireland, but it's blowing in other parts of continental Europe, it can be exported to us."
Mr Varadkar expressed surprise that the EU had agreed to pay as much as €530m.
"We didn't expect to get quite this much.
"€530m is pretty huge," he added.
Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton said that the interconnector allows Ireland to build up its capacity for renewables on the electricity grid.
And it represents "solidarity" with the rest of the EU.