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Ireland and France sign a deal to directly connect Irish electricity to European mainland power grid

With the Celtic interconnector, Ireland will be connected to mainland Europe’s power grid for the first time, allowing Ireland and France to import and export electricity when needed.

Celtic interconnector deal
Mark Foley, Director General of EirGrid (left), and Xavier Piechacyzk (right), President of the RTE managing board on November 25 signing the Celtic interconnector deal in Paris with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Irish Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, and French Minister of the Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher | Eamon Ryan, Twitter

France and Ireland, through their national operators of electricity transmission systems, on November 25 signed a deal to build the Celtic interconnector that will directly connect Ireland’s power grid to mainland Europe for the first time.

The head of Irish government Micheál Martin, Irish Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, and French Minister of the Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher met in Paris to witness the signing of the project to build 575 kilometers of submarine hybrid cable connecting the south coast of Ireland to the west of France.

It is the first direct interconnection of Ireland’s power grid to mainland Europe and will facilitate import and export of electricity between European Union countries.

The electric interconnector has a capacity of 700MW, enough to power 450,000 homes, according to French and Irish official statements.

When Ireland produces a lot of electricity from wind it will be able to sell it to France, and France can sell its power to Ireland when France has electricity in excess.

In a country where some people still use turf to heat their homes, wind was 37 percent of all electricity generated in Ireland in 2020, the second largest source behind natural gas (52%) according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Exporting and importing electricity with European Union member states

Part of French power sold to Ireland will be nuclear although nuclear production is forbidden in the country. However, it already receives civil nuclear power from the United Kingdom with an interconnector (Great Britain is already directly connected to Europe’s mainland power grid).

Xavier Piechacyzk, President of the RTE managing board, and Mark Foley, Director General of EirGrid, the French and Irish operators of electricity transmission systems, signed the agreement. The two companies will be in charge of building the Celtic interconnector. For Mr Foley, this interconnection is “the most important Irish infrastructure project for this decade.”

The project is expected to start in 2023 to become operational by 2026. It should cost a bit more than 1.6 billion euros (1.7 billion dollars). A 2019 grant from Connecting Europe Facility, a European Union funding instrument for infrastructure investment, provided 531 million euros to RTE and EirGrid for the project.

The Celtic interconnector will link the towns of Knockraha in County Cork with La Martyre in Brittany, which were identified as the two optimum locations for grid connection.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher, France’s Minister for Energy Transition, said “this interconnection will help to secure the French and European electricity supply, and will accelerate the use of renewable energy throughout Europe.”

Taoiseach, Irish name equivalent to Prime Minister, Micheál Martin declared “the Celtic Interconnector will help bring costs down and increase security of supply for Irish and French energy consumers. […] Today marks an important milestone in Ireland’s cooperation with its EU partners to ensure a low carbon energy transition.”

For the minister for Environment of Ireland, this deal means Ireland will be able to “import energy from Europe when we need it, and critically, it means that we can also export energy, particularly when we begin to realize the enormous potential of our off-shore wind capacity.”

On November 9, the government of Ireland agreed on the country’s first auction for building offshore wind farms, a large untapped potential for the country. They will be expected to provide 2.5GW of renewable energy to the Irish grid, equivalent to the power needed by 2.5 million Irish homes.

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