28 January 2009 – The European Commission plans to give more than €100m ($128m) to Ireland to strengthen the electricity grid as part of an EU-wide economic stimulus package.
The Irish Times said the Commission also wants to offer several million euro in extra money for Irish wind energy projects as part of a €5bn recovery plan that seeks to boost Europe’s energy security.
A commission source said last night the final list of projects would be debated by the 27 EU commissioners today but the Government had successfully secured the Irish projects.
“The money will be made available for interconnection to strengthen the electricity grid,” said the source, who added that extra money was also available for wind projects.
Eirgrid is expected to be allocated at least €100m to help it build an east-west interconnector between Ireland and Wales and upgrade the grid. This project is scheduled to start shortly as part of its Grid 25 project to double the capacity of the national grid.
The total cost of the project is estimated at €4bn, the majority of which will be borne by consumers. The award of EU funds should reduce electricity prices somewhat.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin engaged in an intensive lobbying campaign with the commission in recent weeks to ensure Ireland would be included in the €5bn stimulus package. The package was debated by foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday and they will be asked to agree the details of the commission’s package in coming weeks.
The commission’s economic stimulus package is geared towards boosting Europe’s energy security, with €3.5bn targeted at building new electricity, gas and renewable energy infrastructure.