The European Commission has approved a €647m (£507m) investment into Europe's energy infrastructure to enhance energy security across the continent.
About €75m will be awarded to the UK for projects such as the electricity interconnecting cables allowing energy exchange with neighbouring countries, smart grids and gas storage.
“This is excellent news for the UK and Europe,” said UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey. “The Commission’s decision to fast-track funding is a real boost to getting these projects built.”
The UK will allocate €40m of the available funding to build three interconnecting cables – one joining the UK electricity grid with the Norwegian one and two connecting the UK with France.
The cables will allow the countries to exchange electricity and balance their systems against the unpredictability of renewable energy resources. While Norway would be able to sell energy from its abundant hydropower resources to the UK via the NSN interconnector, the UK in turn will be able to send Norway energy generated at its offshore and onshore wind farms during times of over-supply.
The NSN link is bound to become the longest subsea electricity cable in the world.
The ElecLink project aims to connect Great Britain with France through the Channel Tunnel, allowing the two countries to exchange electricity with a capacity of 1,000MW in either direction of flow.
The second French connection, the FABlink, will connect the UK with France via the island of Alderney and its nascent tidal power generation.
More than half of the first funding round of the EU’s flagship energy infrastructure project will go to gas, despite the recommendations of the Connecting Europe Facility’ for the majority of the money to go to electricity.
The €647m allocated this week is part of a larger package worth €1.37bn. Some €255m of this will go towards electricity projects with the remaining €392m supporting gas infrastructure, mostly in the Baltics, central-eastern and south-eastern Europe.
The projects, including terminals to ship liquefied natural gas and pipelines, are designed to connect the “energy islands” to the EU-wide networks and minimise their reliance on Russian gas.
The CEF regulation states the Commission should make “the major part of the financial assistance” available to electricity projects from 2014-2020.
It is the first time that the EU has directed funding specifically to energy infrastructure.