PLANS for an electricity superhighway between Scotland and Norway have been given European Union backing, with its agreement to part fund the multimillion-pound development phase of the 650km (403-mile) interconnector.

NorthConnect, a power interconnector project between the Aberdeenshire coast and the west coast of Norway is eligible to receive more than €10 million (£8.4m) to support the scheme’s development.

The money is coming from the Connecting Europe Facility, the EU’s funding support programme for infrastructure, and is being welcomed by the environmental lobby.

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “If Scotland and the rest of Europe are to move to a 100 per cent renewable future then greater use of interconnectors is an essential part of that future.

“Greater interconnection brings the double benefits of ensuring security of supply and removing the need to build lots of expensive new nuclear or fossil fuel power stations.

“Sharing different renewable resources between nations allows us to fulfil our renewable energy potential and drive down climate emissions across northern Europe, much more effectively than relying on domestic action alone.

“The Scottish Government has set out welcome plans to meet half of our energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.

“This announcement reinforces Scotland’s position at the leading edge of the renewable electricity transformation occurring across Europe.”

NorthConnect’s deputy project manager, Richard Blanchfield, said: “The decision demonstrates that the European Union considers the NorthConnect Project important to achieving the strategic goals of increasing security of energy supply, and contributing to sustainable development by integrating renewable energy sources across the European Union.”

Tommy Lovstad, NorthConnect’s CEO and project manager, added: “This is a huge milestone for the project, everyone on the team is very pleased.

“We look forward to further co-operation with Europe’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) and the Connecting Europe Facility. Being selected to receive funding from the EU is a very positive boost to the project’s momentum, and will give the project owners important support in the challenging development environment.”

The news came in a publication of INEA’s list of energy infrastructure projects that have been selected to receive financial support from the EU, and was later confirmed.

NorthConnect was included in the EU’s 10 Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) in 2014 and was later designated as a project of common interest (PCI) – for socio-economic welfare, CO2 reduction and integration of renewables across Europe.

It is ranked among the EU’s most important initiatives and its status makes it eligible to apply for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility.

A number of other independent studies over the past three years have also shown very high welfare value, carbon savings and renewables facilitation for up to 4.5 gigawatts of interconnection between the British and Norwegian coasts.

The project is due to start construction in 2019 and is scheduled to reach completion in 2022.