June 23, 2021

Morocco and Spain, increasingly engaged in shared electricity | Economy

Morocco and Spain, increasingly engaged in shared electricity | Economy

The two monarchs smiled while their ministers and senior officials signed the ten agreements envisaged in the State visit of the Kings of Spain to Morocco, the 14th of February. Some more showy ones were sealed than others, like the irrevocable cession to the Moroccan State of the Gran Teatro Cervantes, of Tangier. But one of them seems to be called to consolidate relations between the two countries if it finally comes to fruition; it is the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to install a third electric cable that unites the two countries.

As in all Memoranda of Understanding, there is no legal commitment that commits either of the two parties. "But once the feasibility plan is put in place, this is unstoppable. In five years it will be a reality, "says one of the promoters of the negotiation, who speaks on the condition of anonymity.

The factor that could put the agreement at risk is that Morocco also signed in 2015 with Portugal another study to install a cable to the Algarve, which would measure about 250 kilometers and have an output of 700 megawatts. The feasibility studies would have to be completed this year and the link should be operational by 2030.

The advantage that Spain has, in principle, is that the cost of the installation, which has to be paid in half, would be much higher with Portugal, since the distance between both coasts is greater. "To Morocco," said the source "is interested in the cost of installation is not excessive and Spain should have a more efficient market, with the two systems of the two banks integrated." If Morocco opted for Portugal, it should be taken into account that China has owned for 25 years the 25% of the Portuguese operator of Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN), with which it would become a key player in the energy market that joins the two coasts of the Strait.

The third cable will be very beneficial for the political relationship between the two countries. The more interests we have in common the less damage we will do

A member of the settlement negotiating team

In Spain there are those who consider that the future needs of the market with Morocco can be satisfied with the second cable and that the cost of installing another link will affect the invoice paid by the consumer. And not only the cost, but also the fact that the greater demand from Morocco, the price of the electricity bill in Spain can be increased at specific moments. However, the defenders of the third connection argue that Morocco will also be able to sell cheaper energy to Spain, which means that the invoice will not always have to be more expensive.

A member of the negotiating team of the agreement emphasizes that this operation goes beyond the mutual economic benefit: "The European Union was born with the Treaty of the European Coal and Steel Community (MINT), in 1951. Thanks to this organization, a war was almost impossible. Saving the distances, the third cable between the two banks will be very beneficial for the political relationship between the two countries. The more interests we have in common, the less damage we will do. "

The approximate term of execution would be five years. The cost to install it is 150 million, to be paid 50% between the two parties. The expected commercial capacity is 1,500 megawatts. The state companies in charge of preparing the study for the project will be the Spanish Red Eléctrica de España (REE) and the Moroccan Office National de l'Électricité et de l'Eau Potable (ONEE).

The first submarine connection had 700 megawatts and started to work in 1998, during the presidency of José María Aznar, a year before Mohamed VI ascended to the throne and one year before the adoption of the euro in Europe. Then came the crisis of the islet Perejil, in 2002, as a turning point between the two countries. And in 2005 there was the biggest crisis of illegal immigration, with the arrival in Spain of 39,180 people without documentation, a precedent lived in 2018, with 65,325 irregular immigrants arriving on the Andalusian coast, Ceuta, Melilla, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the Spanish Levant.

But, in spite of the political and diplomatic frictions that have occurred in the last 20 years, the electric current continued to flow in the waters of the Straits in a discreet and uninterrupted manner. In 2007, under the presidency of the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, it was inaugurated in Tarifa the second interconnection, which doubled the exchange between the two countries. The two cables run from Tarifa to the Moroccan town of Fardioua, in a 29-kilometer route and at a depth of 620 meters. "The problem is that the Iberian Peninsula is an energy island, we do not have enough interconnections with the rest of Europe. And it's good to extend them to the south too, "says a member of the negotiating team of the agreement.

Morocco has undertaken a great commitment to renewable energies, whose emblem is the central Noor, located in the desert that surrounds the city of Uarzazat, four hours by car from Marrakech. The plant, operated by the Spanish company Sener, financed by the Saudi company Acwa Power and subsidized by 60% by the European Union, is a basic piece of Morocco to achieve that in 2030 52% of its electrical capacity comes from energy renewable (20% solar, 20% wind and 12% hydraulic).

"That type of renewable energy," says one expert, "always requires the support of conventional energy to prevent blackouts due to climatic factors. The more renewable you have, the more support you need. With which, the need and convenience of the third cable is guaranteed, "he concludes.

Having three interconnections does not necessarily mean that Spain will sell more energy to Morocco. In 2015, 15% of the electricity demand in Morocco was sold from Spain. But the billing figure may decrease. "There will be times when Spain will compensate to buy it in Morocco because it is cheaper. And there is no problem ", indicates a manager of those who have participated in the negotiation.


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