Modern energy infrastructure is crucial for the EU to integrate its energy market and to meet its energy and climate goals. To upgrade Europe's infrastructure, the European Commission has estimated that around €200 billion is needed during the current decade for transmission grids and gas pipelines. Not all investments are commercially viable however and the market alone is likely to only provide half of the necessary investment.
To help build and finance important energy infrastructure, the EU identified a number of priority corridors under its Trans-European Networks (TEN-E) strategy. These corridors require urgent infrastructure development in order to connect EU countries currently isolated from European energy markets, strengthen existing cross-border interconnections, and help integrate renewable energy.
EU priority corridors for electricity:
- An offshore grid in the Northern Seas and transmission lines to Northern and Central Europe to transport power produced by offshore wind to consumers and energy storage centres
- Transmission lines in South Western Europe such as between Spain and France to transport power between EU countries
- Transmission lines in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe to strengthen the regional network
- Integration of the Baltic electricity market – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – with the rest of the EU
EU priority corridors for gas:
- the Southern Corridor to deliver gas directly from the Caspian Sea to Europe
- integration of the Baltic gas market and connecting it to Central and South East Europe
- North-South gas pipelines in Western Europe to remove internal bottlenecks and enable the best use of possible external supplies
- North-South gas pipelines in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe including regional connections in the Baltic Sea region, the Adriatic and Aegean Seas, the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea, to help diversify gas sources and increase security of supply
EU priority corridor for oil:
- improving interoperability in the oil supply connections in Central Eastern Europe to increase security of supply and reduce environmental risk
EU thematic areas that relate to the entire EU:
- increased deployment of smart grids to help integrate renewable energy and allow consumers to better regulate their energy consumption
- the construction of electricity highways – large grids that allow electricity to be transported over long distances across Europe (ex: from wind farms in the North and Baltic Seas to storage facilities in Scandinavia and the Alps)
- the development of transport infrastructure for captured CO2
Projects of common interest
Based on the priority corridors, the EU draws up a list of projects of common interest (PCIs). It updates this list every two years. The projects selected can take advantage of a number of benefits including faster permitting procedures and applying for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility – the EU's €50 billion plan for boosting energy, transport, and digital infrastructure between 2014 and 2020.
Electricity interconnection targets
The Commission has set a target of 10% electricity interconnection by 2020. This means that all EU countries should have electricity cables in place that allow at least 10% of the electricity produced by their power plants to be transported across its borders to neighbouring countries. This target is well on track. In 2014, in its European Energy Security Strategy, the Commission suggested extending its 10% electricity interconnection target by 2020 to 15% by 2030. To help achieve this, the Commission set-up an expert group on electricity interconnection.
Previous TEN-E strategy
While the current TEN-E strategy was implemented in 2014, many projects from the previous TEN-E strategy (2006-2013) are still ongoing. Some are not expected to be completed until after 2020.
The total budget allocated under the previous strategy was around €20 million per year. Most of this went towards financing feasibility studies.
Projects financed through the Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) programme in 1995-2013 (published 17/12/2014)
Public acceptance of infrastructure projects
The construction of new power grids and other infrastructure projects affects the environment and the daily lives of those who live nearby. Projects should therefore be implemented in a way that achieves a high level of support amongst the local population.
The Grid Infrastructure Communication Toolkit provides advice for engaging with everyone likely to be affected by an infrastructure project. It also gives successful examples of groups (citizens, power companies, government, etc.) working together to find common solutions to project concerns.
Protecting critical infrastructure
In order to ensure that the critical energy infrastructure we rely on for our energy needs is protected against possible terrorist threats, criminal activity or natural disasters, the EU set up the Programme for European Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP).