It will be the world’s longest and deepest underwater power cable, crossing the Mediterranean seabed bridging Asia and Europe.
The EuroAsia Interconnector, nicknamed the “energy highway,” will connect the national electricity grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece.
Over a decade in the planning, construction on the mammoth, €2.5 billion ($2.63 billion) first phase will now get underway, Israeli and Cypriot officials said this week, with 50% of the total cost secured.
The first stage, which has received a €657 million ($736 million) European Union grant, will run 558 miles (898 km.) and link the electricity grids of Greece and Cyprus via the Greek island of Crete.
The second stage will be 190 miles (310 km.) long and connect Kofinou in Cyprus and Hadera in Israel. The project is slated to be completed within five years.
It will put an end to Cyprus’s status as the only non-interconnected European Union member state and provide Israel with a reliable way to export natural gas in the form of electricity.
The cable will reach depths of up to 3,000 meters (more than 9,800 feet), equal to eight times the height of the Empire State Building and nine times the Eiffel Tower. The 751-mile (1,208-km.) 2,000-megawatt undersea cable will have the capacity to power three million households.
“This is a tangible result of the strength of our trilateral relations and opens up opportunities for the entire region,” Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry Natasa Pilides said in a telephone interview with JNS from Nicosia.
“Our objective is not just to interconnect Cyprus with the EU market, but is one of geo-political importance connecting the Eastern Mediterranean to the electricity market in Europe,” she said.
The landmark project comes as the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia are fueling a global energy crisis that has hit the E.U. hard, spotlighting European energy dependence.
“In these turbulent times when energy security and affordability are no longer a given, this project can be a way out which combines all our three objectives: energy security, energy affordability and green transition,” Pilides said.
Indeed, the initiative has been declared a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the E.U., as part of its drive to attain diversity and security of supply in electric power.
The project also comes amid burgeoning relations between Israel and both Cyprus and Greece over the last decade and a half in a variety of fields including tourism, medicine, cyber security and military cooperation in the face of a volatile and intermittently-menacing regional leader, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, although relations between Jerusalem and Ankara have improved of late.
The EuroAsia Interconnector project is expected to be a boon for investment in reliable clean energy for the three countries.
“Connecting Israel with the European electric grid will strengthen our trilateral relations with Greece and Cyprus as well as [additional] E.U. countries while ensuring regional stability and energy security,” Israel’s Ministry of Energy said in a statement.
The statement added that Israeli, Cypriot and Greek technical teams were currently working to further the project.
In the interview, the Cypriot minister said that they will “very soon” be applying for additional funding for the Cyprus-Israel section, which she hopes can progress “in parallel or very shortly after” work on the Cyprus-Crete part whose construction is getting underway in the next couple of months. They are also looking to attract financing from investment funds and private investments.
She noted that the Cyprus-Israel line is technically much simpler than the Cyprus-Crete segment, being both shorter as well as in shallower waters.
“We are having high-level meetings not only on the bilateral and trilateral level, but on the presidential level, and I am confident that incoming Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu will continue with his great willingness to support this project,” Pilides said.
“There is a common interest between the E.U. and Israel here to have energy security and affordability,” she added.
The creation of the electric cable link appears to have superseded a potential project for a gas pipeline between the three countries to Europe via Greece. The viability of that proposal—the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline or simply EastMed—as well as the quantity of the gas that could be transported is under review, officials said.