Spanish electricity grid operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE) and Moroccan supplier L’Office National de l’Électricité et de l’Eau Potable will provide the analysis for the 700-megawatt project. It is due to be commissioned before 2026.
The two countries have also signed a second agreement that is aimed at establishing a long-term partnership on energy with objectives focused on the integration of networks and the energy markets, development of renewable sources and ways to boost efficiency.
Spain’s two existing cables to Morocco are Europe’s only electricity interconnections with Africa.
The first power link between the western Mediterranean states was built after 1996 and the second undersea cable came into service in 2005 to the double transit capacity to 1.4 gigawatts.
The new interconnection would cost up to €150 million with Spain shouldering about half the cost, the REE said. It could reportedly generate revenue of up to €140 million for the Spanish electricity system from tolls and congestion payments.
“The construction of the third link between Spain and Morocco … will allow the integration of renewable energy, mainly photovoltaic, into the European system,” said REE.
It added that Morocco had an “ambitious development plan of solar energy … which consequently will reduce the marginal price of electricity in the Spanish market”.
There is market interest in both Rabat and Madrid in boosting interconnection.
Spain currently provides about 15 per cent of Morocco’s annual power needs but there has recently been counter flow following the operational start in December of Morocco’s 1.4 GW Safi coal-powered station.
There are plans to harness North Africa’s solar potential but the export to Western Europe would depend on such transcontinental grid connection.
However, such projections would depend on the business models used for the operation of the new connection.
A study by the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies at the University of Oxford said one problem with the project was that “demand in many North African countries was increasing, casting doubt over whether or not these countries will have enough supply to be reliable exporters to the EU”.
“In order for projects of these kinds to be viable, they need to be developed around market synergies, integrated markets and complementarity,” the study said.
Spain’s outgoing Socialist government wants 100-per-cent renewable electricity by 2050 as part of its climate change strategy, meaning its status as an energy exporter may change.
The Straits of Gibraltar. Renewables benefit from increased connectivity. Picture credit: IHA