The European Union has earmarked 657 million euros ($736 million) for the construction of a 2,000 megawatt undersea power cable that will link the power grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, said Greek Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides on Thursday.
Pilides told reporters that the funding is the biggest investment ever made by Greek Cyprus, as well as the lion’s share of the total sum that the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility, which funds projects for infrastructure, allocated to a single project this year.
Pilides said the money allows teams to start building the segment of the cable that will connect Greek Cyprus to the Greek island of Crete, with an estimated total cost of around 1.6 billion euros. Negotiations for the transfer of funds are expected to be completed this summer.
The Minister added that beyond the geopolitical weight of the project, it will ensure Greek Cyprus’ energy security, enhance competitiveness in the power supply sector and help the island nation transition more easily to a green economy.
With the completion of the cable, it is expected that more investment will go into renewable energy sources, thus improving the energy mix of Greece, Greek Cyprus and Israel. Pilides said a study shows that the cable in combination with energy storage facilities could push Greek Cyprus’ use of renewable energy sources above 50% by 2030.
Pilides and his Greek and Israeli counterparts signed an agreement last October to accelerate technical work on the cable dubbed “Eurasia Interconnector”.
The agreement was intended to expedite permits and approvals for feasibility studies and to help national electricity coordinators from the three countries cooperate on the best way forward. The first phase of the cable is expected to be completed by 2025.
The line should, however, encompass Turkey’s continental shelf, which is why Ankara opposed the project.
Turkey had previously sent a diplomatic note to the Greek and Israeli embassies in Ankara and to the leaderships of the EU delegation in Turkey because the EU-backed project, which was established with a memorandum of understanding signed between Israel , Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration in March last year, crosses the continental shelf of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, between the islands of Cyprus and Crete.
The move towards an electric cable link appears to have superseded plans for a potential gas pipeline connection between the three countries to send gas from existing and potential fields off the island of Cyprus and Egypt to the Europe via Greece.
Support for the so-called East Med pipeline project has dwindled amid questions about its feasibility as well as its negative impact on the environment.
Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said last week that feasibility studies for the pipeline were still ongoing, but other alternatives were open for getting gas to markets.
Earlier, the United States raised concerns over the proposed undersea gas pipeline to supply natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe in an apparent reversal from the position of the previous Trump administration.
However, Turkey is of the view that any plans to sideline the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the Eastern Mediterranean will fail.
Greece has often been embroiled in tensions with neighboring Turkey over a range of issues, from competing claims over the Aegean’s hydrocarbon resources to the demilitarization of the islands. Greece’s burgeoning weapons program is designed to counter Turkish rights in the eastern Mediterranean, against which France is one of the few EU states to have offered public support in recent months.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims made by EU members Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that such excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus. Both sides cite a series of decades-old international treaties and agreements to support their conflicting territorial claims.