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Ireland Aiming for Energy Independence From Britain

An initiative calls for linking French and Irish power grids.An initiative calls for linking French and Irish power grids.

Two big Irish energy projects designed to reduce dependence on Britain are set to benefit from EU funding as the bloc steps up efforts to support the country with the most to lose when its bigger neighbor quits the European Union.

Brexit has cast doubt over the security of the gas that Ireland imports from Britain, which supplies 60% of its needs. As an EU member, Ireland is not allowed to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement, Reuters reported.

The Irish government has thrown its weight behind two new energy import projects: EirGrid and RTE's Ireland-France electricity link, and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal proposed by a private investment vehicle that took over the project from US energy giant Hess.

"Because all of our electricity and gas interconnections are with Britain, it would be irresponsible of us not to explore other options," Ireland's Energy Minister Denis Naughten told Reuters.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), which invested some €800 million ($845 million) in Ireland last year, said it would be interested in lending money to support the Ireland-France electricity link, also known as the Celtic Interconnector. The EIB has previously provided loans to European LNG import projects.

The two Irish energy import projects are each expected to cost around €1 billion each to build so securing additional funding sources would provide a huge boost.

Ireland's energy dependence on Britain puts it in a sticky position at Brexit talks: On one hand, a deal that lets Britain maintain its trade ties would mean less interruption to Ireland's energy supplies; on the other, Dublin needs to align itself with its EU allies, who can afford a much tougher stance. Experts are concerned Brexit could jeopardize plans to join the Irish and Northern Irish electricity markets by the end of this year, a multi-year project to create a unified Irish electricity market in line with EU legislation.

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