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. However, not all investments are commercially viable, and the market alone is likely to only provide half of the necessary investment. Therefore the EU is helping to fund new energy infrastructure projects all over Europe, as part of its Trans-European Networks for energy (TEN-E) strategy.
In November 2017, the Commission published a Communication on strengthening Europe's energy networks that reiterates the importance of building a well interconnected and integrated trans-European energy grid, accompanied by a a factsheet on questions and answers on the projects of common interest (PCIs) in energy and the electricity interconnection target.
Projects of common interest
Every two years, the EU draws up a list of Projects of Common Interest (PCIs). The chosen projects can take advantage of a number of benefits including faster permitting procedures and the right to apply for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) – the EU's €30 billion fund for boosting energy, transport, and digital infrastructure between 2014 and 2020.
On 6 June 2018 the European Commission proposed to renew the Connecting Europe Facility for 2021-2027 with a budget of €42.3 billion to support investments in the infrastructure networks for energy (€8.7 billion), transport (€30.6 billion) and digital (€3 billion). This represents a 47% increase compared to the previous period 2014-2020.
Projects are selected which make a significant contribution to the implementation of the strategic energy infrastructure priority corridors and areas, as identified in the TEN-E strategy. These are areas that require urgent infrastructure development in order to connect EU countries currently isolated from European energy markets, strengthen existing cross-border interconnections, and integrate renewable energy.
Developing a European energy grid
Many of Europe’s energy networks are ageing and not sufficiently interlinked. Modernising and connecting energy networks across Europe is crucial to improving energy efficiency, and ensuring the provision of secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all. A modern, interconnected energy network can allow a greater share of energy to come from renewable sources and lower costs for businesses and households. It will also mean energy can be shared across Europe, helping countries to better withstand outages.
High Level Groups and Expert Groups
High Level Groups are forums that focus on energy issues in European regions that have been identified as being of high priority. Organised by the European Commission, they bring together representatives from EU countries in the region, transmission system operators, regulators, and in some cases other stakeholders.
Expert Groups provide advice to the Commission in areas of energy policy. They are composed of experts from the public and private sectors and meet to discuss specific issues and give policy recommendations.
Public acceptance of infrastructure projects
Building new power grids and other infrastructure projects allows gas and electricity to flow freely within and between EU countries to where they are most needed. However, the construction of these projects affects the environment and the daily lives of people who live nearby. The Commission has created tools such as the Grid Infrastructure Communication Toolkit (updated 2018) to help developers and planners engage with local people and address their 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).
Energy Infrastructure Forum
The European Commission organises the annual Energy Infrastructure Forum, where key issues related to infrastructure and EU energy policy are discussed. The participants include representatives of the Commission and other European institutions, EU countries, energy industry bodies, and NGOs.