The European Union has committed $720m (EUR578m) to the development of a subsea power interconnection link between France and Spain.

The move comes as Brussels steps up its activities around cross-border interconnection, seen as essential to harmonious integration of renewables, while strengthening the bloc’s energy security.
French and Spanish flags
The link between the two countries will be sited in the Bay of Biscay, and will nearly double capacity to share excess power.

The largest-ever energy grant from the Connecting Europe Facility will be “decisive” in building the link that will run 280 km of offshore cable and underground connections in France that will add 2,200MW of capacity between the neighbours.

“The construction of the Biscay Gulf France-Spain interconnection marks an important step towards ending the isolation of the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of the internal energy market,” said Miguel Arias Cañete, commissioner for climate action and energy.

“French authorities and its network operator RTE have always tried to resist interconnectors with Spain. They see imports of cheap renewable electricity from Spain as a threat to their inflexible nuclear generation,” said Jean-François Fauconnier of Climate Action Network, an environmental campaign group. “More interconnections are a good development as there is always wind blowing somewhere in Europe and lots of sunshine in Southern Europe.”

Better energy interconnections between EU members will be the focus of a mini-summit in Lisbon next month. Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa will host French president Emmanuel Macron, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Only a fully interconnected market will improve Europe’s security of supply, ending the dependence of single suppliers and give consumers more choice. An energy infrastructure which is fit for purpose is also essential for renewables to thrive and for delivering on the Paris Agreement,” said Mr Cañeta.

FT reports that on Thursday the EU announced a total of €873m in spending commitments to 17 projects: eight in the electricity sector and nine in gas. Of the total cash, €150m will fund 13 studies, with the remaining money was committed to four construction projects.

Beyond the Biscay link, the bloc has promised €70m to fund the construction of the German SuedOstLink, 580 km of underground high-voltage cables to connect the wind power in northern Germany to the consumption centres in the south.

Another funded project will study how the Baltics electricity system can be synchronized with that of continental Europe, the Baltics are currently “plugged into Russia”, according to an EU official.