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Spain urges the EU to accelerate energy interconnections with the rest of the continent | Economy

The vice presidents Yolanda Díaz and Teresa Ribera, this Wednesday in Congress.
The vice presidents Yolanda Díaz and Teresa Ribera, this Wednesday in Congress.Javier Lizon (EFE)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has broken the energy schemes in the European Union. After years of delays and neglect in the interconnections between Member States, and very particularly between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of the continent, the urgencies arrive: with Russian gas in question, alternatives must be sought. And Spain has an ace up its sleeve, with six regasification plants, the largest endowment of this type of infrastructure in the bloc. In this scenario, the Spanish Government sees “essential to accelerate” the capacity of the electrical interconnections with France —Work is now underway on a new submarine cable in the Bay of Biscay that will double capacity—as well as “assessing” with the rest of the European partners the “suitability of increasing gas interconnection”.


The pumping capacity to Europe is 7 bcm per year

Spain is capable of regasifying 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year

Draft

MidCat

(paralyzed)

SPANISH PORTS

WITH PLANTS

OF REGASIFICATION

The pumping capacity to Europe is 7 bcm per year

Spain is capable of regasifying 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year

Draft

MidCat

(paralyzed)

SPANISH PORTS

WITH PLANTS

OF REGASIFICATION

The pumping capacity to Europe is 7 bcm per year

Spain is capable of regasifying 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year

MidCat Project

(paralyzed)

SPANISH PORTS WITH PLANTS

OF REGASIFICATION

The pumping capacity to Europe is 7 bcm per year

Spain is capable of regasifying 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year

MidCat Project

(paralyzed)

SPANISH PORTS WITH PLANTS

OF REGASIFICATION

“LNG storage capacity [gas natural licuado] from Spain will contribute, in the short term, to reducing the dependency of the EU as a whole on gas imported from Russia”, reads a letter sent by the Third Vice President of the Government and Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, to the MEPs Susana Solís and José Ramón Bauzá. The letter, dated this Monday, emphasizes that the Spanish contribution to the energy security of the EU in the medium and long term “could be increased if the interconnection capacity were increased.” An option that, until now, Brussels has rejected.

This idea was also influenced this Wednesday by the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, during his visit to his Slovakian counterpart, Eduard Heger, in his round of contacts with other European heads of government to gather support for the very important summit this week that He comes to Brussels. Although the formulas to lower the electricity bill will focus the bulk of that appointment, the interconnections will also be one of the issues to be discussed.

He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.

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“We are studying with the European authorities and the rest of the Member States the viability and economic profitability of new infrastructures that may be beneficial to ensure the security of supply for our neighbors, ensuring that the cost has adequate support at a European level,” he remarks. the text signed by Ribera. This point is fundamental: the Government sees as a priority that it is not the Spanish taxpayer, but rather that of the countries that are going to benefit from the arrival of the gas that reaches Europe via Spain —Germany and the rest of the central and northern countries of the Union and, by extension, of the entire EU—those who bear most of the cost of the infrastructure.

The Midcat project, the gas pipeline that was called to cross the Pyrenees, was agreed in 2013 by the Governments of Spain and France —always with the financial backing of the EU—, but it declined five years later, when the regulators of both countries stressed poor financial viability of the work. This point is also crucial now: in the letter to the representatives of Ciudadanos in the European Parliament, Ribera emphasizes that the infrastructure must be financed as a “project of European interest, taking into account that its main function would be to contribute to the security of supply from our neighbors in the center and north”.

Once again, the Executive explicitly insists that its cost “should not fall on the taxpayer or the Spanish gas consumer, since industrial gas consumers in Spain already pay for this security of supply compared to their European consumers, given that the regasification installations form part of the elements included in the invoices”.

Ribera emphasizes that the infrastructure must be prepared “from the point of view of safety and (…) technically to be able to transport, later and with increasing frequency, renewable gases and hydrogen.” In other words: that it not only serve to transport a fossil fuel such as natural gas, which has a limited time horizon, but also for the energies that will constitute a substantial part of the matrix of the future. Until now, the Pyrenean tube has aroused different sensitivities in the Spanish Government, with Moncloa more inclined than Ecological Transition.

Pressure also from Catalonia

The Catalan Executive also admits the need to recover the Midcat. The infrastructure is half done, with sections of tube buried about fifty kilometers from Barcelona, ​​but with no connection to anywhere. Its deployment was interrupted in 2019, between waves of criticism for the environmental impact of the work. The Provincial Council of Girona approved, with the favorable vote of Esquerra, a motion to stop the work.

Now, the president of the Generalitat Pere Aragonès points out that the tube project has to be revived because it is a “strategic issue”, and claims —like Ribera— that it has a guaranteed long-term use for green hydrogen. That was one of the arguments that Aragonès presented during his speech at the Conference of Presidents last Sunday in La Palma.

Aragonès and his Minister for Business, Roger Torrent, met this Wednesday with the Minister-President of Baden-Wurttemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, in Stuttgart (Germany). In a later appearance, the head of the Catalan Executive explained his desire to create a working group to develop projects on green hydrogen. Like the central government, Catalonia claims its importance in distributing gas to Europe in the current scenario, but also values ​​the regasification plant in the port of Barcelona. The reactivation of the Midcat works plays a key role in fostering the interconnection of both sides of the Pyrenees, and the Government defends that the optimization of the infrastructure to pump green hydrogen should serve to clear up reluctance about the impact of the work on the environment.

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