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EU's biggest-ever energy package - 04/03/2010

A hand putting a plug in a socket © EC

43 gas and electricity projects to split €2.3bn, the most the EU has ever spent on energy infrastructure in a single package.

Gas pipelines account for 31 of the projects and include the Nabucco project running from the Caspian Sea region to Austria via Turkey and the Galsi project from Algeria to Italy via Sardinia. Twelve other projects involve upgrading connections between power grids to link fringe countries like Ireland, Malta, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the wider EU energy network.

The package uses up the last of the €3.98bn the EU set aside during the recession to give the economy a boost. The projects are expected to create jobs and help small businesses survive tough times, especially those in construction and services. In providing an initial outlay, the EU contribution could lever up to €22bn in private investment.

Moreover, they will diversify gas imports and improve the flow of energy across European borders, says Günther Oettinger, the new energy commissioner.

"Never before has the commission agreed such an important amount for energy projects," he said, adding that the funding will help keep energy investments on track during tough times.

"Europe's energy and climate objectives require large and risky infrastructure investments with long pay-back times. The problem is that, in today's economic climate, such projects risk being delayed."

The first batch of grants was announced in December. Worth €1.5bn, it went to 9 offshore wind parks and 6 projects for burying climate-changing carbon.

More than 50% of the EU\'s energy comes from countries outside the bloc. Much of that originates in Russia, whose disputes with the Ukraine and other transit countries have disrupted gas supplies in recent years.

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