EU countries are urged to speed up the connections of their gas and electricity grids, according to a draft European Commission report on investment in energy infrastructure, seen by EurActiv.
Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, as well as Malta, Cyprus, Spain and Portugal, are on a “gas island” because of insufficient infrastructure connections with the rest of the EU, the draft report says.
But perhaps more seriously, dependency on a single gas provider also prevails in countries with a better geographical position, such as Slovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, the paper says.
Following the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis in the winter of 2008-2009, the EU took a number of measures to make sure that individual countries are better connected and less vulnerable in the case of a supply disruption from Russia (see background). A few years later, it appears that little has been done, despite available funding.
The Baltic countries need to connect their energy markets to other EU gas networks in order to increase security of supply. A risk assessment is under way on gas interconnections with Estonia and Lithuania, as well as an assessment of the Poland-Lithuania ‘Baltic Connector’ gas pipeline, the draft Commission paper says.
Bulgaria needs to complete the ongoing investment projects on gas interconnectors with Romania, Serbia and Greece, and make reverse flows possible on its interconnector with Turkey, the EU executive says.
“Bulgaria also needs to play a more proactive part in opening up the Southern Gas Corridor, which has the potential to diversify supply sources,” the paper reads. The Southern Gas Corridor is a key element of competing projects to bring natural gas to Europe from the offshore Shah Deniz II field in Azerbaijan.
Up to now, Bulgaria has made commitments to South Stream, a Gazprom-favoured project widely seen as a competitor to the Southern Gas Corridor.
Gas bottlenecks at the German border
But the EU executive is also critical of Germany, which is called upon to enhance interconnectivity of gas flowing from the Nord Stream pipeline with Russia, operational since November 2011, and develop north-south and east-west transport capacity.
“Important bottlenecks remain at the [German] border with Denmark (Ellund), Poland (Lasow), within Southern Germany and on the north-south route,” the paper reads.
The Commission paper also says:
- Hungary needs to increase its cross-border gas transit capacities, as the current ones are not sufficient to ensure the integration of the national market at the regional level.
- Italy should implement the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, which the Commission text says “forms the Italian branch of the Southern Gas Corridor”.
- Poland lacks diversification, with 90% of gas coming from Russia. “The recent interconnections with the Czech Republic and Germany are improving the situation,” the paper adds.
- Spain should improve its gas interconnections with France and Portugal, and develop the Africa-Spain-France corridor.
Challenges in the electricity sector
Similarly to gas, the Commission lists recommendations to individual countries in the electricity sector, the most pressing messages being directed at the Baltic countries, former Soviet republics whose networks are strongly interconnected with Russia and Belarus.
Estonia is urged to continue the development of its electricity connections with Finland, while Latvia is urged to strengthen its national grid to be able to transport electricity from Sweden, Finland or Poland. Regarding Lithuania, the planned electricity interconnectors with Sweden (by 2015) and Poland (by 2016) will allow the country to connect to the European grid, the Commission says.
Bulgaria and Hungary are also urged to increase cross-border network capacity, in order to facilitate trade with neighbouring countries.
Similarly, Spain and France are advised to improve their capacity for cross-border exchange. Italy and Poland, which are suffering from congestion on the domestic grid, are advised to speed up its development, as well as enhancing interconnections with neighbouring markets.
In Germany, the expansion of the north-south axis and cross-border connections are seen as a necessity, in particular due to the reduced capacity in the country’s south, resulting from the shutdown of nuclear power plants, and the increase of renewable capacities in the North and the Baltic seas.
The Commission’s paper has been put together on the basis of information supplied by the member countries as well as from other sources. According to the document, Bulgaria is the only country which hasn’t provided any information.
The European Summit of 4 February 2011 underlined the need to modernise and expand Europe's energy infrastructure and to interconnect networks across borders.
Heads of state insisted that no EU member country should remain isolated from the European gas and electricity networks after 2015 or see its energy security jeopardised by lack of the appropriate connections.
On 29 June 2011, the Commission proposed the Connecting Europe Facility to promote the completion of priority energy, transport and digital infrastructures with a single fund of €40 billion, out of which €9.1 billion are dedicated to energy.
The European Commission estimates investment needs of about €140 billion for electricity infrastructure and at least €70 billion for gas through 2020.
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