“Interconnections are not bilateral issues, they are important European policies that require the maximum involvement of the European Commission”. The third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera, thus urged this Wednesday for a Greater involvement on the part of Brussels in the commissioning of a new gas pipeline linking Spain and Portugal with the rest of Europe.
Scholz bets on a gas pipeline from Spain and Portugal to Germany
A new infrastructure, the Midcat, which will cross the Pyrenees through Catalonia and which has now become a priority for Germany, after the Chancellor Olaf Sholz, urge its implementation as soon as possiblegiven the forecast that Russia will cut off the gas tap in the coming months.
Spain wants to accelerate this gas pipeline and, given that it is now a priority for other EU countries, that the cost is also shared. Government sources indicate that, according to the initial estimates of the project, the necessary investment would exceed 400 million euros, taking into account both the infrastructures in Spain and France. Until now, Spain was supposed to bear the bulk of the investment.
The cost of the measure meant that, a few months ago, when Russian gas was cheap and Germany based its energy strategy on it, the project did not seem very profitable. So the European partners looked the other way when its construction was proposed.
Now, on the other hand, Spain is no longer the country of the European Union that has benefited the most from this megaproject. For this reason, if the gas pipeline is configured within this framework, both to limit Russian exports and to transport hydrogen in the future, the community partners would be the great beneficiaries of the future gas pipeline. In this way, the aforementioned sources indicate, it would be possible to recalculate the estimated costs and the distribution of the investment between the States.
The "essential" involvement of France
This week, the French Ministry for the Energy Transition has been less supportive of this new interconnection than Spain or Germany. "A project like this would require, in any case, years to be operational (the time of studies and works for this type of infrastructure always takes many years) and would not respond, therefore, to the current crisis", collects an email from the French ministry quoted by 'El País'.
In parallel, the Executive emphasizes, according to the aforementioned sources, that the involvement of France is essential, to interconnect its own gas subsystems from north to south, so that the gas pipeline can supply central Europe.
"France is demanding electricity from all its neighbors," said Teresa Ribera on Wednesday. Due to the “enormous difficulties in refrigerating the [centrales] nuclear”. In fact, the neighboring country has half a nuclear park stopped, either because the high temperatures of this hot summer do not allow the use of water to cool these plants, or because some have design problems, which prevents their operation. In this sense, Ribera assured that the interconnections are going to be "an important debate in the coming months" that goes through "a common energy policy", where costs are also shared.
A political debate “at the highest level”
In the current context, it would make "all sense", according to the Executive, that this infrastructure is financed as a project of common interest (PCI), taking into account that its main function would be to contribute to the security of supply of our neighbors in the center and northern Europe.
The Ministry headed by Teresa Ribera points in the same direction. Sources from the same assure that the "circumstances have changed radically since the Midcat project was originally proposed until today" and that "the context has nothing to do with what it was then, neither with regard to energy security, nor with respect to the price of gas. . For this reason, it is essential that a high-level political debate takes place, at the highest level”, which would also entail the involvement of Brussels.
The approach to this infrastructure is not new. It began to be talked about at the beginning of this century, when Spain launched to build combined cycle power plants (which burn gas), it was equipped with the largest network of regasification plants in Europe -which are now a fundamental piece in the European strategy- and built a large underwater warehouse (the Castor) that ended up being a fiasco.
“For us, the great political priority is to be able to help our neighbors in central and northern Europe”, indicates the Ministry. “A deep reflection on the scope of the new circumstances and how we adapt to them to help each other would be convenient.”