The European Commission has announced a list of 140 electricity projects that will be fast tracked and have access to a funding pot of €5.85 billion (US$7.9 billion) including a new UK storage installation and interconnections with Ireland.

The list includes several gigawatts of pumped hydro storage across the continent, a 250MW battery storage system in southern Italy and a compressed air energy storage system in the UK with an annual storage capacity of 550GWh.

The projects have been given “project of common interest” (PCI) status that will mean lower administrative costs streamlined permitting procedures and the possibility of receiving funds from the Connecting Europe Facility to leverage private and public finance. This could be available as early as 2014.

“We have to make sure that our limited funds are used wisely and that EU money goes where it can create most benefits to European consumers,” EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger. “With this list of energy infrastructure projects and their accompanying benefits, we also hope to attract more investors.”

The compressed air storage technology uses excess energy to pump compressed air into underground caverns within old salt deposits. The air is pumped back out when demand grows and mixed with natural gas to turn steam turbines. The addition of the air halves the amount of gas required.

Gaelectric, the firm behind the project in Larne, Northern Ireland hopes to build an air-gas plant with a capacity of up to 300MW at the site and aims to be operational by 2016/2017.

Interest in energy storage in the UK is increasing with the 6MW test facility in Leighton Buzzard the largest demonstration of its kind in Europe.

There was disappointment that just two smart grid projects were listed among the 140 projects.