Electricity interconnections in the EU: The challenge of the Iberian peninsula

Check out this Editorial by Alfonso Arroyo Gonzalez, FEDARENE Vice-President for Renewable Energy Sources and EREN’s Director, extracted from our publication ‘Sustainable Regions in Action‘.

Electricity interconnections in the EU: The challenge of the Iberian peninsula

A European objective

Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 on the governance of the energy union and climate action obligates Member States to draft integrated national energy and climate plans (NECPs) addressing the five dimensions of the Energy Union: energy security; internal energy market; energy efficiency; decarbonisation; research, innovation and competitiveness.

Regarding the internal energy market, Member States must include their desired level of electricity interconnectivity for 2030, considering the EU target set at minimum 15%.

The Spanish case

The interconnection of the Iberian electricity system with the rest of the European continent is below the targets set by EU regulations: the ratio is 2.8%. Thus, the Iberian Peninsula remains to a large extent an “electricity island”.

If we just consider Spain, the interconnection ratio through Portugal and France is 7.2%. In 2020 Spain was actually the only country in continental Europe below 10%. Therefore, a target of 15% of interconnection by 2030 should be the only acceptable one, though the realistic goal is 10.7%.

To this end, the following key interconnections are envisaged:

• Bay of Biscay project, between Aquitaine (FR) and the Basque Country (ES). It will bring the interconnection capacity between Spain and France to 5.000 MW.

• Interconnections between Aragon (ES) and Atlantic Pyrenees (FR) and between Navarra (ES) and Landes (FR). They will increase the interconnection capacity to 8.000 MW.

The Bay of Biscay project has been listed as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) since 2013. The necessary permits to start construction should be obtained before the end of 2023.

The other two projects have also been recognised as PCIs since 2021, and should be implemented in 2030.

A key connection to make: France-Spain

Interconnections are the main infrastructure element enabling progress in the internal energy market, as they make it possible to exchange electricity with neighbouring countries at competitive and homogeneous prices and reduce the volatility of national markets.

They are important for energy security and improve the efficiency of electricity systems by contributing to a more efficient allocation of generation, reducing the need for duplicate facilities across borders.

Finally, they play an essential role in meeting energy and climate objectives by enabling greater grid integration of unmanageable renewable technologies.

The regional energy agency of Castilla y León (EREN) has made contributions to the Spanish NECP, indicating the capital importance of achieving the interconnection goals in order to avoid an unacceptable degree of curtailment in Spain. Of course, active EU implication in achieving these goals is fully necessary.

This editorial is extracted from our publication ‘Sustainable Regions in Action‘. Discover more here!