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08 February, 2023
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Ending Cyprus' energy isolation

Construction on the section of the electricity cable connecting the island of Cyprus and Crete has begun, and it is being celebrated.

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

After the discovery of energy resources in the Cypriot EEZ, the start of construction of the Cyprus-Crete electricity cable can be considered a high point in Cyprus' energy affairs. For the first time in its history, the Republic of Cyprus will join Europe's energy system, with all that entails for the country's security.  When the 898-kilometer-long cable is finished, Cyprus's electricity system will be connected to the European system via Crete, marking the completion of two-thirds of the EuroAsia Interconnector electricity cable, which began in Israel. One of the ambitious electrical interconnection projects Cyprus-Greece-Israel is classified as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) under EU Regulation 347/2013 and has been included in the EU Regulation "Connecting Europe" since October 2014.  The electric cable will be 1,518 kilometers long when completed, with the EuroAsia Interconnector company serving as the implementing entity. The project is broken down into three stages. The first section will be 329 kilometers long, the second 879 kilometers long, and the third 310 kilometers long from Crete to Attica.

The EuroAsia Interconnector

Cyprus becomes an energy hub, the Republic of Cyprus is geopolitically upgraded, and an electrical corridor connecting the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe is built.

The project, which consists of direct current (DC) submarine cables and high voltage direct current (HVDC) onshore conversion stations at each connection point, has a total capacity of 1000 MW in the first phase and 2000 MW in the second phase. The cable to Crete will be 879 kilometers long with a maximum subsea depth of 3000 meters. The total cost of the interconnection between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel is €2.5 billion, of which €1.575 million is for Cyprus-Crete and the remaining €1 billion is for Cyprus-Israel. The project has been approved for a €657 million grant from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and has been included in the Cyprus Tomorrow Plan, which will receive a total of €100 million from the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

The stages

The overall project's construction is divided into three phases:

- Phase 1: Cyprus - Israel, December 2019

- Phase 2: Crete - Attica, December 2020

- Phase 3: Cyprus - Crete, December 2022

According to the project's technical specifications, the cable will run from Chadera (Hadera Israel) to Kofinou (Cyprus). It will then be extended by sea to Korakia (Crete, Greece) and then to Attica. It should be noted that the Crete-Attitaia section is now operational because Greece decided to develop it independently from the rest of the project.

The advantages

Cyprus becomes an energy hub, the Republic of Cyprus is geopolitically upgraded, and an electrical corridor connecting the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe is built. In practice, the importance of trilateral cooperation between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel is emphasized. Cyprus' energy isolation is lifted by connecting it to Greece, the European electricity grid, and Israel. The country's energy supply is ensured, as is the avoidance of blackouts, which can cost the economy incalculable amounts of money.  Attain the 15% interconnection target for the European energy market (Interconnection Targets / Internal Energy Market). Promote the achievement of the National Action Plan for Green Energy objectives through increased use of renewable energy sources (RES) and reduction of air pollutants. Connect Cyprus's internal electricity market to the European single market and promote electricity market competition.

The ceremony at the Presidential Palace

A celebration with a special emphasis on Nicosia will mark the beginning of the construction projects. The ceremony to inaugurate the Cyprus-Crete section will happen on Friday at the Presidential Palace. The President of the Republic, European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, Minister of Energy, Trade and Industry Ms. Natasa Pileidou, and Greek Minister of Environment and Energy Mr. Kostas Skrekas will all be present at the ceremony. The project will be introduced by the Managing Director of EuroAsia Interconnector Ltd. in addition to the speeches at the ceremony.

The roadblocks to project implementation

The start of construction work is undoubtedly the most significant development, but the project's progress has also been marked by challenging moments. The decision by Greece to implement the third phase of the project independently, involving the Crete - mainland Greece section, proved to be a major impediment, raising serious concerns about the lifting of Cyprus' energy isolation. As the project is classified as a Project of Common Interest (PCI), with the EuroAsia Interconnector company serving as the implementing body, the entire issue took on political dimensions, as well as the intervention of the Commission.

The Athens decision was even discussed during Kyriakos Mitsotakis' visit here in 2019, with the Greek side explaining to the Cypriot government and the EuroAsia Interconnector management team that it is in the best interests of the country "The electrical interconnection between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel is a top priority for us. But the energy stability of Crete is even more important, especially since the then-operational PPC plant on the Megalongo island must be withdrawn under EU law." It was also reported at the time that Athens believed that if the project were to proceed as a single project, it would burden Greek consumers with €300 million per year, to be paid through the Public Utility Services.  In the end, the Commission decided to operate the Crete-Greece mainland section independently and outside the CSR framework.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  electricity  |  connector  |  energy

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