The first phase of an EU-backed plan to lay the world's longest subsea electricity cable could be completed by 2017, ending Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies, while allowing Israel to export power generated from its newly found offshore gasfields.
Some 820 nautical miles of cable making up the EuroAsia Interconnector will link energy-hungry Europe with power generators tapping into vast quantities of natural gas found in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years, the project managers told Reuters in an interview.
The European Commission on Monday included the 3.5 bln euro plan in a list of 250 power and gas projects designed to curb reliance on Russian gas imports and create a single energy market.
The cable will carry electricity generated in Israel and sent via Cyprus, Crete and Greece to European grids.
"The demand for electricity in Europe is phenomenal...we think that in the future even a second cable might be required," Nasos Ktorides, chairman of PPC-Quantum Energy, a joint venture of Cyprus-based Quantum Energy and Greece's Public Power Corporation (DEH) told Reuters.
Israel has reported some of the largest gas finds worldwide in the past decade and EU member Cyprus has just confirmed a discovery - making them both potential exporters.
The EuroAsia Interconnector will run at depths of up to 2.2 km with a 2,000 megawatt capacity, the news report added.
"Our target is to have completed the first phase of the project within 36 months from the launch, for the first connection in 2017," said Ktorides.
The first phase included the two 'ends' of Crete-Athens and Cyprus-Israel, Ktorides said. The second phase would be the Cyprus-Crete link, a distance of 475 nautical miles.
The link would be able to transmit power in either direction and would primarily focus on electricity generated from natural gas. But electricity from renewable sources could also potentially feed into the network, Ktorides said.
The link, conceived after more than half of Cyprus's energy generation capacity was wiped out in a freak explosion in 2011, would end the energy isolation of Cyprus and Israel, as well as Crete and Crete which adds 350 mln euros to Greek fuel costs each year.
Cypriot consumers pay some of the highest prices in Europe for their energy, Ktorides said, shelling out up to 26 cents per kilowatt of electricity compared with 8 cents by Israelis, he said.
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