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Interconnector decision delayed (Updated)

Συνέντευξη ΚΥΠΕ – Υπουργός Ενέργειας Γιώργος Παπαναστασίου
Energy Minister George Papanastasiou

Cabinet failed to decide on Friday whether or not Cyprus will participate in the Great Sea Interconnector, with a final decision now expected next week.

A decision had been initially expected on Friday after Energy Minister George Papanastasiou and Finance Minister Makis Keravnos presented their proposal on the matter to cabinet, but a decision was not reached, and discussions will continue after the weekend.

The Great Sea Interconnector, formerly known as the EuroAsia Interconnector, is a plan to connect the electricity networks of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, and has a planned capacity of 2,000 megawatts.

After the cabinet meeting, Papanastasiou confirmed that the interconnector will cost a total of €657 million and will be subsidised by the European Union.

He added, “we will continue this discussion next week and I hope the right decision will be made by the Republic of Cyprus.”

The government had initially been given a deadline of Wednesday to make a decision over whether or not Cyprus would participate, but Papanastasiou said they had requested a delay “because further discussion is needed”.

Earlier, Papanastasiou had told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) Cyprus is “after many years of this project, reaching a point where we are able to make a proposal in cabinet to participate.”

“Based on the studies, Cyprus will achieve electricity sufficiency and will be able to increase the penetration of renewable energy sources by two thirds through the cable,” he said.

In addition, he said, the country “will be able to use its own natural gas for power generation and electricity exports through the cable.”

Should Cyprus join the interconnector project, he said, the island “will become a geostrategic hub because it will be located between the electricity networks of Israel, Greece and Europe.”

Speaking about the project’s progress so far, he said Greece’s electricity transmission operator, which is implementing the project, has already made its first payments to the construction companies for the project to start.

Construction of the first cables on the Greek island of Crete began in December.

Papanastasiou said the company constructing the cables “is of French interest and is building the cable in Norway and perfecting it for water depths in Japan.”

With this in mind, he said “the technology and know-how are there to be able to technically implement the project.”

However, he did concede that the amount Cyprus would have to pay towards the interconnector’s construction and implementation “has not been decided”.

He said the potential cost “is something which is mentioned the proposal we submitted to cabinet,” and added that there are “available amounts” in the Recovery and Resilience Fund and the possibility for Cyprus to take out a loan to the tune of €100 million.

“The finance and energy ministries will decide whether to use part of or all of that amount,” he said.

Moving on to the matter of the project’s history, he said Cyprus saw the project “with a different lens” when the project’s implementation was awarded to Greece’s transmission operator.

Should cabinet approve Cyprus’ involvement in the project on Friday, he said, “we will get a preliminary ‘yes’ that we are entering the project, while things will develop in consultation with the other bodies involved with the project.”

“Through this consultation, there is a horizon at which a private company will take ownership of the project, and at which point we will demand the company in question is Cypriot,” he said.

This company, he noted, will issue share capital to be bought and traded by interested investors.

One interested investor may be the United Arab Emirates’ Taqa investment fund, which, Papanastasiou said, has “officially stated its interest in entering the project”.

Finally, he touched on the international and diplomatic side of the project, between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel.

He confirmed he had held a telephone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Tuesday, who had “indicated that Israel sees its participation in the interconnector as a priority and asked for a one-to-one meeting as soon as possible.”

Additionally, he said, “it emerged in the discussion that it would be good for Greek Energy Minister Theodoros Skylakakis to also be present at the meeting.”

With this in mind, he said general agreement had come for a meeting to be held in March, “either in Nicosia, Athens, or Jerusalem, so that we can move forward together with the participation of all three countries.”

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