To achieve its climate and energy goals, Europe needs to improve cross-border electricity interconnections. Connecting Europe's electricity systems will allow the EU to boost its security of electricity supply and to integrate more renewables into energy markets.
When a power plant fails or during extreme weather conditions, EU countries need to be able to rely on their neighbours to import the electricity they need. Without infrastructure it is impossible to buy and sell electricity across borders. Connecting isolated electricity systems is therefore essential for security of supply.
Reliable connections with neighbouring countries also lower the risk of electricity blackouts, reduce the need to build new power plants, and make it easier to manage variable renewable power sources like solar and wind. For example, surplus renewable energy produced in one country could be used in another country where demand for electricity is high, via new interconnections.
In October 2014, the European Council called for all EU countries to achieve interconnection of at least 10% of their installed electricity production capacity by 2020. This means that each country should have in place electricity cables that allow at least 10% of the electricity produced by its power plants to be transported across its borders to neighbouring countries. 17 countries are already on track to reach that target by 2020, or have already reached the target, but more interconnections are needed in some regions.
To help achieve these targets, the Commission set up an Expert Group on electricity interconnection, composed of 15 leading experts on the European energy market and infrastructure from industry organisations, academia and NGOs, as well as the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) and the European Networks of Transmission System Operators for Electricity and for Gas (ENTSO-E and ENTSOG).
The Expert Group presented a report on its work in November 2017. The report recommends assessing the need to develop further interconnection capacity, reflecting the different energy realities in EU countries and the different roles interconnectors play in supporting the completion of the internal energy market, enabling the integration of renewables and ensuring security of supply.
In the light of this report, in the Communication on strengthening Europe's energy networks published in November 2017, the Commission proposed to refine the 15% through a set of additional and more specific thresholds. The use of these thresholds will serve as indicators of the urgency of the action needed in order to help the EU achieve its energy policy and climate objectives.