ENERGY: Crete to get two electric cables — the European PCI and a new ‘national’ project

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By Makis Georghiou

Crete will get two separate subsea power transmission cables three years from now connecting it to the Greek grid, double what the electricity-isolated island had bargained for after the Energy Minister had a policy U-turn and declared Athens will build a new ‘national’ interconnector of its own.


This puts an end to friction between Cypriot consortium EuroAsia Interconnector that has designed and developed the project since 2012, and the Greek Ministry of Energy that recently changed its mind, eager instead to hand the Crete-Attica section to a new second national project.

The decision complements the EU-approved EuroAsia, the 1,000 MW high-voltage DC cable known as a Project of Common Interest (PCI 3.10) connecting Israel and Cyprus to Crete and Attica, the latter sector of which will be commissioned in June 2022.

The PCI status has been awarded as part of the EU’s ‘electricity highway’ strategy that will end the energy isolation of Cyprus, the last EU member state without any electricity interconnection to the rest of Europe.

The second new ‘national’ cable, which was directly awarded to the Chinese-controlled power transmission operator ADMIE and its subsidiary called ‘Ariadne SPV’, will be identical.

It will have 1,000 MW capacity and will be a new “national” project, depriving it of any EU aid and costlier to the consumer by EUR 350 mln more, in addition to being delivered at least six months later.

The new ADMIE cable will be built by Ariadne and will also not be compatible with any part of the PCI 3.10 Israel-Cyprus-Crete-Attica interconnector.

The two independent interconnector projects, running in parallel, will end the electrical isolation of Crete, where the grid relies on outdated diesel power stations that have been burdened with growing demand as tourist inflows increase year after year, especially during the summer months.

Earlier this year, an explosion at an old transformer plunged the Greek island into darkness and made it vulnerable to future power outages, raising serious concerns about security of supply.

“Project promoter EuroAsia Interconnector … totally agrees that a solution needs to be found to secure Crete’s energy supply. This can only be done through a direct subsea cable connection to mainland Greece,” EuroAsia board member and former Transport and Communications Minister Marios Demetriades wrote in an article published by Kathimerini in March.

“As frequently pointed out by the European Commission and Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, the quickest way to implement the electricity cable between Crete and Attica is via the EuroAsia Interconnector,” Demetriades added.

Greek Energy Minister Yiorgos Stathakis said during the signing of a finance deal on Thursday by the European Investment Bank for the smaller 280MW AC interconnector linking Crete to the Peloponnese, that procurement for the new ‘national’ Crete-Attica by ADMIE will be relaunched “soon”, after the initial tender documents were withdrawn from the European Union’s Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) platform almost a month ago.

To date, the Greek energy regulator RAE has not been able to rubber-stamp the Minister’s wishes and greenlight ADMIE and its subsidiary Ariadne to proceed with the procurement process for its new ‘national’ 500kV Crete-Attica subsea cable and two converter station terminals, in parallel with 3.10 EuroAsia, on the PCI Union list that the Greek government has supported since 2013. This implies a process that will last until November when the next PCI list is published by the EU.

Meanwhile, EuroAsia Interconnector has taken legal action in Athens, the Hague and Cyprus against the RAE unilateral decision awarding the new “national” Crete-Attica cable to ADMIE when EuroAsia remains the official project promoter of the entire PCI 3.10, an inseparable part of which is the 3.10.3 Crete-Attica.

European Commission sources in Brussels monitoring the developments and clearly upset by Greece’s unilateral decisions that contravene all EU regulations, said that Stathakis’ declaration could also pave the way for RAE and other authorities to finally approve EuroAsia’s environmental impact study and other licensing requests that have been lingering in the Energy Ministry’s corridors.

The European project has been denied approval since 2017, while newcomer Ariadne with the new national project has miraculously seen its identical permits approved.

A Commission source said that Greek regulator RAE will now “have no choice with serious legal cases against them but to allow the EuroAsia cable to link to the Greek national grid, and from there to the rest of the continental European network, a decision that had been blocked.”

 

The writer is a regular columnist on energy, geopolitical and maritime affairs.