Cypriot consumers should not pay anything for the Great Sea Interconnector until the project is up and running, the energy minister asserted on Monday.

“It’s a matter of principle,” George Papanastasiou said. “As long as the cable is not operational, no one is justified in charging for future electricity flows.”

He was speaking at an event marking the one year of the energy ministry under the administration of President Nikos Christodoulides.

The Great Sea Interconnector – formerly the EuroAsia Interconnector – is the commercial name given to the mooted undersea cable linking the grids of Cyprus, Greece and Israel.

Speaking on this, Papanastasiou said the cable project promoter has requested a swift revenue stream to offset expenses – a request currently being examined by the respective energy regulators in Cyprus and Greece.

Cyprus’ priority is to protect electricity consumers, the minister noted.

He said the cable project – costed at €1.9 billion – is expected to go operational in 2029. Given the multiple benefits that come with it – unlocking capacity for renewables – the expenses should be paid off quickly after it goes live.

As it stands, Cyprus will bear 63 per cent of the cost, and Greece 37 per cent. This is because the benefits to Cypriot consumers are far greater.

But, the minister stressed, any charge to the consumer must happen “only once we have actual flow of electrons through the cable”.

Papanastasiou also recalled that the government of Cyprus has asked for a cost-benefit study, which will allow it to make a final investment decision. Cyprus is considering directly investing up to €100 million in the project.

Regarding developments in offshore gas exploration, the minister spoke of “activity” going on now in Block 5 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

The consortium of ExxonMobil and Qatar Energy are carrying out three-dimensional surveys in the block. The surveys, said the minister, have shown signs of optimism.

Also within the year an appraisal drill will take place at the Glaucus reservoir in Block 10.

And based on the findings of the appraisal at the Glaucus-2 well in 2023, possible targets were identified in Block 5 and in Block 10.

Next year will likely see permits granted for new exploratory drilling in those two blocks.

On the Aphrodite gas play in Block 12, Papanastasiou said the government awaits the concession holders to submit their revised development plan.

He also revealed that the dispute with Israel over the Yishai reservoir should be “resolved” within the next three months.

The dispute derives from the claim of the owners of the Yishai gas licence, on the Israeli side of the Israel/Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone  boundary line, that the Aphrodite gas deposit extends into Yishai.

In 2010 Israel and Cyprus signed an agreement delimiting the border between their respective maritime areas.

But a unitisation deal was never signed specifying development of gas reservoirs straddling both countries’ territories.