Interconnections of the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe

Red Eléctrica’s new General Manager of Transmission Division, Eva Pagán, explains the benefits of international interconnections in this Tribune article.

  • Tribune

In 2015, the Santa Llogaia-Baixas interconnection line with France was brought into service, a historic milestone for the Spanish electricity system due to the fact that the last interconnection line commissioned with France dates back to 1982.

The project was necessary, from the regional point of view, to ensure the power supply to the AVE (High Speed Train) and the quality of electricity service in the area of Gerona, and from a more global perspective, to contribute significantly to improving the safety, quality and competitiveness of the power supply of Spain and the Iberian peninsula as a whole.

However, it is in Europe where this project is considered strategic. The European Union has been pushing for an "Energy Policy for the European Union" that aims to set a framework for action on climate and energy matters with three strategic cornerstones for the 2030 horizon: boost integration of renewable energy (27% of total energy consumption) therefore reducing dependence on foreign energy; reduce greenhouse gas emissions (40% vs. 1990 target), and establish a fully-interconnected internal energy market that enables greater diversification and increased security of supply.

All this translates into concrete benefits: its contribution to the security of the interconnected electricity systems (providing support functions among systems); increased frequency stability due to increased inertia of the interconnected systems, and increased integration of non-manageable renewable energies.

For this reason, the European Union’s support for this project has resulted in a grant of 225 million euros and in the attainment of financing through the European Investment Bank for an additional 350 million euros. It should also be noted that the final cost of the project were kept sufficiently in line with the initial budget, which is not easy in projects as innovative as this one.

The commissioning of the new interconnection was subsequently accompanied by two significant events. Firstly, the signing of a common strategy document sponsored by the European Commission, between the TSOs of Portugal, France and Spain for the development of interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. Secondly, on March 4, 2015, the governments of these countries and the European Union signed the "Madrid Declaration", giving way to the creation of a high-level group on southwestern Europe interconnections in order to ensure the development of new interconnection projects.

All this represents a major boost to continue working on building new interconnections and which have already been incorporated into the list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI). In addition to those already included (a new interconnection with Portugal via Galicia and an interconnection project between the Basque Country and Aquitaine), in 2015, a new generic interconnection project through the Pyrenees was included that responds to the commitment set out in the Madrid Declaration to build two new interconnections across the Pyrenees in Aragón and Navarra.

For these projects to become a reality it will be necessary to have, as set out in the Madrid Declaration, the support of all the government administrations of both countries and of the European Union, in line with the support provided for the Santa Llogaia-Baixas project. That project had their support not only for the processing of the permitting documentation and its approval, but they also participated actively in the dialogue process with the municipalities and ensured that the construction was carried out with the maximum respect for the environment and the minimum social impact. But the latter necessarily involves very high costs that require economic support from the European Union.

The challenge is served and we are already working on it to make it happen in the next decade.