The third vice president intervenes in the negotiation between the CNMC and the French regulator to avoid an unfavorable agreement for Spanish consumers
The idyll between the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchezand his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, reached its zenith last Thursday with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship. The Spanish-French summit showed a growing harmony between the two governments, which have set aside a good part of their differences to face a common front against the energy crisis. But France and Spain are waging a struggle that, according to sources in the sector, was also addressed in the bilateral meeting last week: the extra cost of 1,300 million for the submarine electrical interconnection through the Bay of Biscay.
The objective of the project, promoted in 2017 by the Government of Mariano Rajoy, is to increase the electricity exchange capacity between Spain and France to 5,000 megawatts (MW,) compared to the current 2,800 MW. The original budget, of about €1.75 billion, has been insufficient. Technical difficulties not foreseen in the original plan and an exponential increase in energy prices and raw materials have skyrocketed the cost item, forcing both countries to increase their contribution to the project, as advanced fivedays.
Sources from the environment redea (formerly Red Elctrica), the company responsible for the interconnection project that it manages in parity with its French counterpart (Rsseau de Transport d’lectricit), they assure EL MUNDO that the most recent data that is handled encrypt the final budget of the infrastructure in €3.1 billionwhich represents an increase of 77% compared to the initial plan.
The sectoral regulators of both countries, the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) on the Spanish side and the Commission de Régulation de l’Energie (CRE) on the French side, are the competent bodies to negotiate the division of that sector. overrun. France wants to maintain the original distribution, whereby the French country assumes less than 30% of the total cost, compared to just over 40% for Spain and 30% financed by Europe.
Industry sources say that both regulatory bodies reached a meeting point recently. The CNMC would have presented the result of said negotiation to the plenary session of the regulator’s council. The preliminary agreement started from a total cost of 2,700 million euros which, as a result of the latest updates, would have once again become obsolete. In addition, it once again benefited France against Spain.
Competition sources assure that the Plenary has not yet approved the aforementioned agreement. The reason given by business sources to explain that the document has not been officially ratified by the governing body of the CNMC is the appearance on the scene of the Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Riberawho would have intervened personally to stop a deal that exacerbated the differences in the Pyrenean relationship.
The same sources indicate that Ribera herself would have contacted the French Government (they point to her French counterpart, Agns Pannier-Runacher), to activate the diplomatic channel and readjust the agreement reached by the regulators. The pulse of the Bay of Biscay would have emerged at the recent Spanish-French summit, which Teresa Ribera attended as a member of the entourage that accompanied Pedro Sánchez. Neither the CNMC nor Transición Ecológica have responded to questions from this outlet about government intervention in this matter.
The electricity corridor through the Bay of Biscay is advancing considerably behind schedule. The calendar updated by Red Elctrica foresees that the works will start in 2024, leaving the start-up of the infrastructure for beyond 2027. Originally, it was expected that the interconnection could be operational in 2025.
In the current context of energy crisis, the submarine electrical interconnection project between Gatika (near Bilbao) and the Cubnezais substation (in the French region of Aquitaine) is an even higher priority for the European Union, which has already classified it as a Project of Interest. Commission (PIC) in 2013. Its implementation is one more step towards European energy independence, since it means expanding the capillarity of the continent’s electrical grid, which reinforces the security and quality of the service at a time of rupture with Russia, a historical ally for Europe’s energy supply.
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