The third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, affirmed this Tuesday that she sees France with the will to carry out the third gas interconnection with Spain, the MicCat gas pipeline. "I do believe that there will be a different commitment with France" because, with the war in Ukraine, "circumstances have changed" and "the perception of risks and opportunities" as well.
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"They understand that they have to do it, that they have to speed up," he said, in a debate on the first day of the Cercle d'Economia 2022 meeting that began this Wednesday in Barcelona. The Midcat project was ruled out in 2019 by regulators in France and Spain due to its high cost and dubious profitability. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Spanish government has opened up to reactivating it, provided it is financed by the EU, for the export of gas to northern Europe, taking advantage of the powerful network of regasification plants of the Spanish system.
According to Ribera, although France "has always resisted" the idea of interconnections, now the neighboring country is in a "completely different" situation: "It has 50% of its nuclear park stopped and is having to import electricity 24 hours a day. day, 7 days a week”, from Spain and Germany. And that production will not recover "in a relatively short time."
France "needs the support of its neighbors" and the European Commission is "engaged to monitor more closely" than ever before the issue of interconnections. In the case of Midcat, Ribera has reiterated that the Spanish consumer, who is already paying for the largest network of regasification plants in Europe, should not be charged, and should allow the transport of biogas or renewable gases.
The vice president has stressed that "no good or service in any member state" has a physical limitation in the internal market such as electricity, with an exchange capacity of "less than 3%", which has allowed the so-called exception to be negotiated with Brussels Ibérica to decouple gas prices from the wholesale market. According to Ribera, the long-awaited measure is going to be approved "very quickly", but "some technical adjustments" related to the operation of the electricity market's hourly matching are missing.
“We are working with Portugal on some very detailed technical adjustments that basically respond to the fact that there are some differences in the type of tariffs, in the type of actors, and the concerns that there may be in Portugal and in Spanish consumers. But it will be very fast”, he assured, regarding a solution that “some power companies do not like”.
According to Ribera, until the invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels "no one watched" that the commitments of greater interconnection were fulfilled, which now "is on everyone's lips" and "represents a major challenge in the case of the Iberian Peninsula". "Without a doubt" in the new package of measures to repower the EU [Repower EU] and reduce energy dependence on Russia that the European Commission is going to present on May 18, this issue is going to be present.
"Push a button"
In a subsequent colloquium, the president of Enagás, Antoni Llardén, warned that dispensing with the 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas that Russia supplied to Europe every year until the war conflict "is not going to be easy" and it is not going to consist of “pressing a button”.
In Spain, the demand for industrial gas, which is 50-60% of the total, has fallen by 9% so far this year, despite the fact that the overall consumption of this material has risen by 5%. The decline, explained Llardén, has occurred "because consumption has ceased, due to prices". “We have an industrial shock” unprecedented since the Second World War because prices are “unsustainable”.
In the case of Repsol, the reduction in gas consumption thanks to the substitution for other fuels and efficiency measures in the face of these high prices has been 1 bcm, Repsol's CEO, Josu Jon Imaz, explained at the same event.
According to the CEO of Endesa, José Bogas, if the war “last little” and there is an agreement “as soon as possible”, renewables will be accelerated. But “if it lasts a long time” and it “costs” to reduce dependence on Russian gas, there will be “fragmentation” between the policies of the European partners, with the risk that some will act on their own to guarantee supply.
In the opinion of the CEO of Repsol, the EU Repower "is absolutely necessary for us to have energy in the coming months" and "avoid supply problems". And energy efficiency measures must be adopted "above all".
According to Imaz, “it cannot be that we are now talking about the Midcat. This has happened to us." "For ideological reasons in Europe this has not been promoted because they told us that gas was the past", an aspect that Bogas highlighted: "Electricity is the future", underlined the CEO of Endesa.
Imaz has insisted on making the ecological transition “with a head”, has wondered “what are we doing in Europe by prohibiting the exploration of hydrocarbons” and has asked to “remove ideological bias from policies”.