France, Spain agree to let more power flow between them

power_lines.jpg [Angelo DeSantis/Flickr]

France and Spain have agreed to boost the capacity of electric power lines across their border, which is well behind European targets for interconnection.

The two countries want to boost Spain’s interconnection capacity to 10% of its power generation capacity by 2020, in line with EU recommendations, and said they count on EU funds to finance the infrastructure investments.

Spain is a virtual energy island, with just 3% interconnection capacity. France’s is around 9 percent thanks to links with other neighbouring countries.

“France and Spain have decided to put in place a common strategy to develop interconnections,” the two countries said in a joint statement following a meeting between French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Spain has long complained that France is holding up the construction of power lines to Spain for fear that cheap Spanish renewable power would flood into France.

French grid operator RTE, a unit of state-controlled utility EDF, says the delays are due to citizen resistance against high-voltage lines across the Pyrenees.

The opening of a new high-voltage line in the eastern Pyrenees between Baixas, France and Santa Llogaia, Spain in the first quarter of 2015 will double interconnection capacity between the two countries to 2,800 MW, roughly the capacity of two nuclear plants.

The two countries said they would continue technical studies about a project for an undersea power cable along the western coast of the Pyrenees but set no deadlines for completion.

They also asked grid operators to present a study of new cross-Pyrenees interconnections in the first quarter of 2015 and said a seminar in the first half of next year would bring together ministers, regulators and grid operators to boost cooperation.

Spain’s surplus has the potential to make a big contribution to Europe’s energy security. The maximum amount of power used in the country on the coldest day of 2013 was less than half of its installed capacity.

Later this month, EU energy ministers will debate ways to improve cross-border energy links.

Subscribe to our newsletters