Power cable through the Pyrenees marks step to EU energy union

Power cable through the Pyrenees marks step to EU energy union
The Little Yellow Train runs through the high Pyrenees.

BRUSSELS - France and Spain's link to carry power across the Pyrenees mountains launched on Friday is one step towards a grand EU plan for the single energy market the European Commission will work towards relentlessly, the EU's energy and climate boss said.

The joint project by RTE, a unit of French utility EDF , and Spain's Red Electrica will double French-Spanish interconnection capacity to 2,800 megawatts (MW), equivalent to the output of around three nuclear plants. "This will not be an isolated project," Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement issued in Brussels. The Commission will "continue to work relentlessly to connect Europe's energy markets," he said.

The power line from Baixas in France to Santa Llogaia in Spain is one of the European Union's Projects of Common Interest, which benefit more than one EU nation and are entitled to EU funding and fast-tracked planning procedures.

It received 255 million euros (S$394 million) in EU support towards the 700 million euro cost of the cable buried beneath the Pyrenees.

European President Jean-Claude Juncker has made improved interconnection an EU priority as part of efforts to share available energy supplies and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuel, especially from Russia given the conflict involving Ukraine.

Around one third of Juncker's 300 billion euro investment plan for the bloc is expected to cover the energy sector.

The Commission will also next Wednesday launch its strategy for energy union, including its vision of how to achieve a goal of ensuring cross-border links equate to 10 per cent of a nations' power generation capacity by 2020.

Spain and Portugal have long complained that being cut off from France has prevented them from selling on surplus energy. They have played a big part in pushing for enforcement of the 10 per cent target.

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