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Understanding the Politics of Europe's Offshore Electricity Grids: Is the EU Supporting a Renewables-centric Energy Infrastructure or Building Bigger Markets for Electricity Utilities?

Brendan Flynn

The EU is deeply involved in supporting electricity grid connections between various European grids for traditional reasons: it furthers the logic of the single market and such projects are good for cross-border development. Today however, submarine electricity cables and grids are vital and strategic in supporting the viability of offshore renewables by improving their technical reliability and market access. This paper confines itself to EU support and policies for offshore electricity interconnectors, with a focus mostly on the planned Northern Seas Offshore Grid (NSOG) initiative which will receive significant EU funding support under the recently agreed Connecting Europe Facility (2013). This paper questions whether such EU support really benefits offshore renewables, alongside the more traditional EU goals of achieving a more integrated and efficient market. Moreover, the extent to which an emergent European offshore grid politics is driven at the EU level is challenged here. Instead, it is argued that such grid projects reveal the continued salience of national and meso-level energy policy actors. Rather than fast-tracking an EU wide electricity grid which can more easily integrate offshore renewables, a much more messy regionalisation of electricity grids and markets within Europe appears as likely.

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