M. Manousakis: The Mediterranean at the forefront of the green transition

Speech by the Chairman and CEO of IPTO at the Annual General Assembly of Med-TSO

The Chairman and CEO of IPTO, Mr. Manos Manousakis, emphasized the growing relevance of promoting interconnections among Mediterranean countries for Europe's energy transition during his address at the general assembly of the Association of the Mediterranean Transmission System Operators (Med-TSO).

Mr. Manousakis underscored the imperative need for expanding electricity grids to align with global energy and climate objectives. In this context, he highlighted the pivotal role of Med-TSO in expediting the development of Mediterranean Energy Systems. Stressing the advantages of Mediterranean electricity interconnections, he emphasized their potential to alleviate political tensions, foster regional cooperation, and bolster security of supply for the involved nations.

Additionally, he stated that a resilient and robust electricity system in the Mediterranean is indispensable for the European Union's green transition. Explaining further, he noted the substantial renewable energy potential in the Mediterranean basin, capable of providing Europe with clean and affordable energy.

Regarding the geopolitical significance of ongoing interconnections in the region, Mr. Manousakis pointed out that these projects not only diversify Europe's supply sources but also enhance the Mediterranean's overall geopolitical standing. "I see a window of opportunity that should not be missed," he remarked, emphasizing the pivotal role of cooperation under Med-TSO for tapping into the vast renewable potential of the Mediterranean.

Advocating for intensified collaboration, Mr. Manousakis addressed common challenges and objectives shared by Operators in the region. These include encouraging investments, optimizing the use of renewable potential, addressing the variability of Renewable Energy Sources (RES), and streamlining permitting procedures and regulatory frameworks for projects.

Mr. Manousakis concluded his intervention by presenting international interconnection projects progressing with the active participation of IPTO. These projects, he asserted, have the potential to position the Mediterranean "at the forefront of the green transition," enabling Greece to emerge as a significant exporter of clean electricity and a crucial entry point for green energy spanning the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Europe. Special mention was made of the Greece-Egypt GREGY interconnection (promoted by Elica Group) and the Greece-Cyprus-Israel interconnection (for which IPTO recently took the role of project promoter)  along with updates on other significant projects such as the Greece-Italy, Greece-Saudi Arabia, and the Greece-Germany Green Aegean Interconnector clean energy corridor.

***

Below is the complete text of Mr. Manousakis' speech:

Esteemed colleagues,

It is an honor and a pleasure to welcome you all in Athens for the annual General Assembly of Med-TSO, the Association of the Mediterranean Transmission System Operators.

This year’s gathering comes at a crucial time for all TSOs, as their central role in the energy transition - especially through the cross-border interconnections they design and implement- was brought to the forefront of the public dialogue.

It is no coincidence that this year, for the first time ever, the International Energy Agency brought the attention to the grids, pointing out that to achieve countries’ national energy and climate goals, a total of over 80 million kilometres of grids will need to be added by 2040- the equivalent of the entire existing global grid !  “No transmission, no transition”, as some commentators put it to explain the huge challenge in one catchphrase.

In this context, the role of the Med- TSO, whose main mandate is to promote the interconnections of the Mediterranean countries, becomes ever more relevant.

This was highlighted by the Mediterranean Masterplan of the Interconnections, which was drawn in the framework of the TEASIMED project and presented last March, as all of you here already know.

This Masterplan is indeed a very useful tool that can prove instrumental for the acceleration of the Mediterranean Power Systems integration, through which the security of supply of the countries involved can be enhanced.

I need not elaborate- especially taking into account the heightened tension in the Middle East- on how the interconnections in the Mediterranean can serve to mitigate political tensions and promote regional cooperation.

In this sense, Med- TSO is an excellent forum for fostering dialogue and considering all stakeholders’ views. A stronger regional integration of an efficient and stable Mediterranean power system is needed to exchange clean energy.

At the same time, we must keep in mind that it is a priority of the Mediterranean countries that are also EU members to enhance the energy security of partner countries and support their clean energy transition.

Furthermore, the interconnections in the region have another very important role to play: The Mediterranean basin has huge Renewable Energy potential (sun and wind), that can feed the rest of Europe with clean and affordable energy.  The exploitation of this potential is more necessary than ever in the current circumstances, in the light of the steps that Europe is taking in order to diversify its energy sources and routes.

This strategic energy policy priority, as described in the RePOWER EU package, increases the momentum for the implementation of those projects that can raise the profile of the region internationally and heighten its strategic geopolitical position.

So, I see a window of opportunity that should not be missed. In order to exploit this huge potential, collaboration is key and the Association of Med- TSO can be very constructive.  All the more so, because the challenges that all Transmission System Operators are facing to expedite the interconnections are common: So we need to work together in order:

-to encourage the necessary investments to support future projects and their funding

-to utilize in an optimal way our renewable energy potential

-to manage the intermittency of renewable sources

-to raise awareness about the licensing procedures and the regulatory processes that are always slow and cumbersome.  

We need to take every chance we get to develop common responses, and, in this sense, I hope that today’s discussions will be constructive.

Please allow me to conclude my short intervention by presenting to you all the projects where IPTO is engaged and which promote this vision of bringing our countries closer together and bringing the Mediterranean to the fore of the green transition, as Europe searches for alternative energy sources. 

Those are projects that promote Greece’s ambition to evolve into a clean electricity exporter, as well as a crucial RES gateway, collaborating with nations from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, all the way to Central Europe.

In honor of the President of MED-TSO Dr. Sabah Mashaly, who is here with us today, let me start with the GREGY project which involves the electrical interconnection of Egypt directly with mainland Greece through a submarine cable link of 3,000 MW capacity and the capability of bidirectional energy transmission. The GREGY project, which is under development by the project promoter ELICA, a company of Copelouzos Group will carry 100% green energy from Egypt to Greece, and through Greece to Europe, thus making a decisive contribution towards tackling climate change and the greenhouse effect by significantly reducing CO2 emissions. 

IPTO recently took on the role of project promoter for the interconnection between Greece, Cyprus and Israel which aims to connect the national electricity grids of Israel and Cyprus with Europe via Greece, accelerating the energy transition of the Middle East region while ending the electrical isolation of Cyprus.

Another very important project, which is also included in the masterplan of Mediterranean interconnections is the second interconnection between Greece and Italy, which will triple the amount of electricity that can be transferred between the two countries and has been included in the most recent Ten Year Network Development Plans of both IPTO and TERNA, the Italian TSO.

Last but certainly not least, let me briefly touch upon two new projects that IPTO has started to study and mature, which are emblematic of the vision we have for the development for new electrical corridors between Europe, the Middle East and northern Africa. I am referring to the Saudi Greek Interconnection which envisions a new electricity interconnection between the Arabian Peninsula and Europe, via Greece. At the end of September, IPTO and the TSO of Saudi Arabia National Grid established a special purpose company which will undertake the necessary studies regarding the commercial viability of the project aiming to transfer clean energy from north Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

This project has synergies with the Green Aegean Interconnector, which envisages the creation of a new vertical corridor for the transmission of clean energy generated in the European South and the Eastern Mediterranean region directly to major consumption centers and industrial zones of central Europe.  The design of the project foresees an initial transmission capacity of 3 GW and in the second stage, its further development to 6 and up to 9 GW. The proposed design involves a subsea route from Greece to Slovenia via the Adriatic Sea, and then an onshore route to Austria and Southern Germany. IPTO for its part is engaging with the TSOs of all the countries involved and has submitted the project for inclusion in the new Ten-Year Network Development Plan of ENTSO- E.

I hope I have given you some food for thought. I am certain that the discussions will be fruitful and will allow all participants to examine collaboration prospects for interconnection projects which will contribute not only to the climate neutrality of the Mediterranean region, but also to the energy independence of Europe.

I believe that today’s proceedings can push forward the promotion of policies, investments, and collaborations that will allow the Mediterranean region to harness its green energy potential, contribute to climate change mitigation, and enhance energy security beyond its borders.