Companies are invited to bid for financial help in projects "aimed at ending energy isolation, eliminating energy bottlenecks and to complete the European energy market". The EC said in a statement that it is making €100 million (US$109 million) available for these grants from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
In order to apply for a grant, the proposals have to be on a list of "projects of common interest" that was initially adopted in October 2013. It consist of 248 key gas and electricity infrastructure projects which, when completed, would "ensure significant benefits for at least two member states, enhance security of supply, contribute to market integration, increased competition as well as to sustainability".
The Commission hopes that the money "will also act as a catalyst for securing additional financing by private and public investors". It expects to make a total of €650mn available for grants in 2015, and plans to hold another call for proposals later in 2015, it said.
EU commissioner for climate action and energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: "Reliable and well-connected energy networks are vital for achieving a resilient European energy union. We need major investments to make our energy grid fit for the future. This funding is an investment opportunity to build a competitive, sustainable and secure energy market, and ultimately bring the benefits into our homes and businesses."
In most cases EU support cannot exceed 50% of the eligible costs for "studies and works", the Commission said, but in exceptional circumstances, where a project "contributes significantly to the security of supply, enhances energy solidarity between countries or offers highly innovative solutions", EU support can be increased to a maximum of 75% of the costs for works.
The Commission's Directorate-General for Energy and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency will run an information day in Brussels on 16 March 2015, to provide information about funding opportunities and practical details on how to apply for a grant.
The deadline for applications is 29 April 2015 and a decision on the proposals to be funded is expected by mid-July.
Under the CEF, €5.85 billion in EU financing is available for energy infrastructure from 2014 to 2020. The majority of the money will go to grants, the Commission said, but "a part" will be spent on setting up financial instruments for infrastructure development, including a contribution to the European Fund for Strategic Investments.