Red Eléctrica de España and Réseau de Transport d'Électricité will invest 1.75 billion euros in the interconnection across the Bay of Biscay. According to the Chairman of REE, Jordi Sevilla, and the President of RTE, François Brottes, "the interconnections are a fundamental pillar of the energy transition and of a low-emission economic model". This firm commitment of Spain and France for a single and interconnected market has been demonstrated today during the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Inelfe, the company set up by both companies for the promotion and construction of electricity interconnections between both countries.
Following the commissioning in 2015 of the Santa Llogaia-Baixas underground line through the eastern Pyrenees, work is currently underway for the construction of a submarine link across the Bay of Biscay for 2025; a project which will represent a total investment of 1.75 billion euros and that has been awarded a 578 million euro subsidy from the European Union.
The interconnection across the Bay of Biscay is expected to provide savings in variable generation costs of 394 million euros per year, a saving in CO2 emissions of 3.2 million tonnes per year and the integration of 4,322 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy into the system per year.
The development of new international interconnections is essential in order to achieve the binding target of renewable energy of 32% set by the European Union by 2030. The greater the capacity of interconnection between member states, the greater the integration of renewable generation and, therefore, the greater the level of decarbonisation. In this way, it would be possible, for example, to make wind generation from the North Sea or solar energy from southern Europe available to all European citizens. Additionally, the promotion of interconnections will help drive more efficient investments in renewable energy, which will reduce generation from conventional technologies and dependence on fossil fuels.
According to both, "international interconnections not only increase the size of national electricity systems, providing them stability and security of supply, but also reduce the installed power capacity needs, moderate electricity prices and avoid the curtailment of renewable generation". And they add: "they act like genuine electricity highways across countries and continents, helping transform renewable energy into nomadic energy, which can be constructed in locations where the investment can be more profitable".
Spain, an 'electrical island' that is increasingly interconnected
Electricity interconnection projects with neighbouring countries are key for Spain. The Iberian Peninsula has a degree of interconnection with the European system much lower than that of the rest of the countries of the European Union, which prevents it from accessing, on equal terms, the benefits of electricity interconnections in terms of efficiency and optimisation of resources.
It is estimated that the Santa Llogaia-Baixas interconnection has generated savings of 327 million euros for Spain: €157 million more than the cost assumed by Spanish consumers (€270 million), which demonstrates the amortisation of the project in financial terms.
In addition, this interconnection has enabled the physical exchanges of electricity to increase by 90%, which directly increases competition and efficiency as well as the optimisation of the integration and use of renewable and emission-free generation.
A new interconnection project with Portugal through the south of Galicia is also on the table. This project of community interest, which is currently undergoing the administrative permitting process for its approval, will help Portugal achieve the interconnection target of 10% of its installed power generation capacity and will undoubtedly strengthen the Iberian electricity market.
Ten years of INELFE
Inelfe (Electricity Interconnection France-Spain) was founded on 1 October 2008 as a joint venture, owned in equal parts by Red Eléctrica de España and RTE (Réseau Transport d'Électricité), the companies that manage respectively the electricity transmission grids in Spain and in France.
Its initial objective was to launch the first underground interconnection project between the two countries through the eastern Pyrenees. Now its mission has been expanded to enable the construction and commissioning of electricity interconnections between the two countries.
According to the President of RTE, "Inelfe is innovative regarding the way to approach this type of projects in Europe. It is a constant challenge for the teams from Red Eléctrica and RTE that has been overcome through collaboration, flexibility and consensus in order to achieve a common goal. Thus, for example, the Santa Llogaia-Baixas interconnection project placed us at the cutting-edge in technological terms, and represented major milestone at a worldwide level.”
The Chairman of Red Eléctrica, Jordi Sevilla, also spoke during the event about the opportunities that the interconnections represent for the Basque Country. In this regard, he assured that "interconnections are a strategic project for Europe and for Spain, but also for the Basque Country. An opportunity for Basque industry, which will be able to participate in a cutting-edge technological project in collaboration with the major European groups that will design and construct this infrastructure".