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The European Commission yesterday approved an unprecedented grant of EUR578 million (US$718.5 million) to the Biscay Gulf France-Spain interconnection project. The grant will fund the construction of a 370km electricity transmission line between Gatika, around 20km north of Bilbao, in the north-east of Spain, and Cubnezais, around 40km north of Bordeaux, in the south-west of France.
The grant is being provided by the Connecting Europe Facility, and is the largest ever awarded. In order to be eligible for such a grant, a project has to be "of common interest". That is to say, the projects must result in significant benefits for at least two EU Member States, enhance security of supply, contribute to market integration, and enhance competition, as well as reduce CO2 emissions.
The new link, which includes a 280km-long offshore section, will nearly double the interconnection capacity between France and Spain – increasing it from 2,800 MW to 5,000 MW. It will consist of four cables, two per link. The two converter stations, one at each end of the link, will convert the direct current to alternating current for connection to the electricity transmission grid of each country.
Although, construction is not expected to commence until 2020. The project is currently in consultation phase, with public consultations scheduled until March 2018. An impact study will be undertaken over the next two years, and technical authorisations will be sought in early 2020, before construction begins in June.
The project is being developed by INELFE (Interconexión Eléctrica Francia-España or Electricity Interconnection France-Spain), a joint company set up in October 2008 by the national grid management companies of Spain and France - REE (Red Eléctrica de España) and RTE (Réseau Transport d’Électricité) for the purpose of creating this interconnection. REE and RTE hold equal stakes in INELFE.
INELFE was officially made responsible for the construction and commissioning of the electricity interconnections between France and Spain at the Madrid Summit in March 2015, which aimed at increasing the electricity interchange capacity between the two countries.
The project will contribute significantly to achieving Spain's interconnection target of 10%, an increase from the current level of 6%. Such a leap will allow for an enhanced incorporation of renewable energies, thus contributing strongly to the clean energy transition and to the EU's clean energy transition policy.
This financing forms part of a total of EUR5 billion (US$6.2 billion) that has been allocated to trans-European energy infrastructure for the period 2014-2020 under the Connecting Europe Facility.