“We have managed to unblock the green energy corridor between the Iberian Peninsula and the European Union”, announced the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, upon his arrival at the European Council in Brussels on Thursday. The unblocking took place in a meeting with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the Portuguese prime minister, António Costa, at the French diplomatic representation to the European Union, in Brussels.
In recent months, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in which the price of gas has skyrocketed while supply has been cut off, mainly to Germany, the Federal Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the Spanish President have insisted to Macron to unblock the Midcat project, to connect the Iberian Peninsula with the rest of the EU through France.
But Macron has been resisting. Until this Thursday, in which an alternative solution proposed by Spain has been agreed, according to Moncloa sources: change a pipeline below the Pyrenees initially designed for gas, for another by sea and designed for the future hydrogen, although compatible now with gas –something that Spain also defended from the beginning for the Midcat–.
Negotiating sources affirm that the gas pipeline to Marseille could take “4 or 5 years”, and then from there it would be connected to the interconnections to northern Europe, something that did not happen with the Midcat idea. “In order to fine-tune the times, technical analysis is needed,” the sources explain: “One thing is to build a tube for gas and it is not valid for hydrogen, and another thing is a tube for hydrogen that can be filled with gas. As far as possible we can put gas [las directrices de la Comisión Europea establecen que a partir de 2030 no puede llevar gas]”.
“After many months there is an agreement”, announced Sánchez at the Europa building of the European Council, in Brussels: “We have reached an agreement for interconnections with a commitment to green energies, such as green hydrogen. The measure allows Spain, in particular, to be able to respond to that demand for solidarity that it has with the rest of the European countries. In addition, the interconnections will have a dual approach, and we are not only talking about interconnecting hydrogen and renewables, but also promoting electrical interconnections”.
Thus, Sánchez explained: “The three governments have reached an agreement to replace the Midcat project with a new one, the green energy corridor, which links the Iberian Peninsula and France, and, in addition, with the European energy market, proposing the Barcelona-Marseille alternative, to carry green hydrogen and the gas needed in the meantime, between Barcelona and Marseille [BarMar]”.
“The three of us are going to meet again next December 8 and 9 in Alicante, at the Euromed summit [la que reúne a los 9 Estados mediterráneos de la UE]”, and the three of us are going to continue working to talk about the deadlines, the investment, the distribution of costs and the volume of economic resources that we are going to have to involve to make a demand that we have been making to France for a long time“.
Sánchez has also announced that he has agreed with the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, “to regulate electricity storage within the Iberian framework and have a reserve and achieve electricity storage through an Iberian regulation for storage”.
Macron explained upon arrival at the European Council that a “political agreement has been reached to change the old Midcat gasification project into a new renewable hydrogen interconnection project between Barcelona and Marseille”.
According to the joint statement from France, Portugal and Spain, the three heads of government “decided to abandon the Midcat project and instead create, as a matter of priority, a green energy corridor connecting Portugal, Spain and France with the energy grid. of the EU”.
In this sense, they agreed to: “Conclude the renewable gas interconnections between Portugal and Spain, specifically connecting Celourico da Beira and Zamora (CelZa); develop a maritime gas pipeline connecting Barcelona with Marseille (BarMar) as the most direct and efficient option to connect the Iberian Peninsula with central Europe; These hydrogen infrastructures must be technically adapted to transport other renewable gases, as well as a limited proportion of natural gas as a temporary and transitory energy source.”
Regarding electricity, the statement states that the three leaders “expressed their full support for speeding up efforts to complete the new electricity connection through the Bay of Biscay. They agreed to identify, evaluate and implement new electricity interconnection projects connecting France and Spain, in order to achieve an electrically connected Europe”.
“The three leaders agreed to meet again in Alicante on December 9 to decide on the schedule, funding sources and costs related to the implementation of the BarMar component of the Green Energy corridor between Portugal, Spain and France. Their respective Ministers of Energy will immediately begin the preparatory work on these issues, as well as on the reinforcement of the electrical interconnections between Spain and France; in this they will work in close collaboration with the European Commission”, concludes the statement.