The European Commission has responded to a complaint lodged by Independent MEP, Nessa Childers, regarding the public consultation process related to major energy interconnectors which are planned to join Ireland to the UK and EU.
These energy projects, which are to be funded by the EU, are an essential component of the Eirgrids Grid 25 proposals, and also depend on the Gridlink project linking Kildare and Cork. Although Gridlink will not be directly funded by the EU, it will be an essential component of the energy interconnector proposals.
‘This reply will be of interest to those communities campaigning against the massive wind turbines proposed for the midlands, and also those communities extremely concerned about Gridlink pylons proposed to link Kildare and Cork.’
The Commission told the MEP that ‘The Irish projects which are not compliant with environmental law will be removed from the Union wide Energy Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list and will not be able to receive any financial aid.’
The Commission agreed with Ms Childers regarding the apparent lack of proper consultation stating: ‘A good communication between the project promoters, authorities and stakeholders is one of the main pillars for the successful implementation of infrastructure projects and I agree that there is an urgent need for improvement. ‘
‘This reply from the Commission outlines that there must be no short-cut taken by the Government in relation to conducting adequate and thorough Environment Impact Assessments, and properly informing all stakeholders about these major energy projects.
Energy Projects of Common Interest involving Ireland
Thank you very much for your letter, addressed to Commissioner Oettinger, regarding energy Projects of Common Interest (PCI) involving Ireland. Mr Oettinger has asked me to reply directly to you.
Ireland is currently one of the least interconnected Member States is the European Union and does not meet the 10% electricity interconnection target advocated by the Barcelona European Council in 2002 which is detrimental to Ireland’s market integration as well as to the security of supply. This fact was acknowledged by the regional Groups when selecting the Projects of Common Interest under the Regulation 347/2013 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure (Infrastructure Regulation) leading to the selection of 11 electricity transmission projects connecting to Ireland.
The PCI’s were selected according to criteria defined in Article 4 and Annex IV of the Infrastructure Regulation. During the selection process the projects were assessed regarding their contribution from the perspective of the European energy policy. The inclusion of projects in the Union list of PCIs is without prejudice to the outcome of relevant environmental assessment and permitting procedures carried out by the national permitting authorities. Projects not in compliance with Union legislation should be removed from the Union list of PCIs (Art. 5 paragraph 8 of the Infrastructure Regulation). The Infrastructure Regulation foresees a monitoring of the PCIs according to article 5. The monitoring of all projects, including the Irish PCIs, will be carried out by the regional Groups. According to Art. 5 paragraph 5 the competent authorities have to report to the regional Group on the progress achieved in project implementation and we will certainly closely follow all activities related to the implementation of the mentioned Irish projects. The Irish projects which are not compliant with environmental law will be removed from the Union wide PCI list and will not be able to receive any financial aid.
A good communication between the project promoters, authorities and stakeholders is one of the main pillars for the successful implementation of infrastructure projects and I agree that there is an urgent need for improvement. The Infrastructure Regulation defines in Article 9 and Annex VI the requirements for transparency and public participation. Especially Article 9 paragraph 7 obliges the project promoter respectively the national authority to establish and regularly update a website with relevant information about the PCI. The European Commission will follow the fulfilment of this obligation.
You are referring in your letter to the Commission Decision C(2012)7510 of 29/10/2012 establishing the 2013 annual work programme for granting financial aid in the field of trans-European networks (TEN) – area of energy infrastructure (TEN-E). This Decision relates still to the “old” TEN-E guidelines (Decision 1364/2006/EC) for the financing period 2007-2013 and not to the selection of PCI’s under the Infrastructure Regulation. The award criteria for the financial aid for PCI’s will be defined in the Work Programme which will be adopted in coming months according to Article 17 paragraph 5 of the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Connecting Europe Facility.
I would like to thank you for pinpointing the critical issues for the Irish PCI’s and would like to reassure you that the European Commission will continue closely follow the implementation of the obligations defined in Infrastructure Regulation.
Should you have any further questions of comments, please do not hesitate to come back to me.
Catharina SIKOW-MAGNY Head of Unit
European Commission ENERGY
Unit Internal Market I: Networks & Regional Initiatives DM24 06/145B-1040 Brussels/Belgium +32 2 296 21 25