France-Spain electricity interconnector delayed to 2015 - RTE

18 November 2013 17:10 Source:ICIS

Testing has delayed the 2GW interconnector between France and Spain across the Eastern Pyrenees mountains from early 2014 to the middle of 2015. The cable will more than double cross-border transmission capacity between the two countries from 1.4GW to 3.4GW ( see EDEM 23 April 2013 ).

The construction of converter substations and the related tests have become more complicated than expected, French grid operator RTE said, in a document reevaluating its 10-year investment programme published on Friday.

France’s energy regulator CRE had indicated over the summer that the construction of the new France-Spain interconnector may be delayed and was contributing to RTE’s lower investments in 2013, compared with planned investments set out in the grid operator’s investment plan published in 2012 ( see EDEM 29 July 2013 ). RTE’s investment in infrastructure up to July 2013 was €11.1m under its €1.44bn target for 2013, the regulator said.

North-south imbalance

According to the new edition of RTE’s investment plan published on Friday, changes in the French generation mix will lead to greater generation capacity being focused in the north while consumption will grow faster in the south, similar to the problems already faced by Germany’s electricity system. This means that investments will have to be made in connecting the northern and southern regions of the country.

This shift in production to the north will be especially marked if the government goes ahead with plans to scale down dependence on nuclear energy for generation, because some of the nuclear facilities that will be closed at the end of their currently approved life-spans are located in the Rhone and Loire valleys, the grid operator warned. The first nuclear plants will reach the end of their 40-year life-spans in the early 2020s.

The new offshore and onshore wind power capacity in development is also focused in the north of the country, increasing the forecast imbalance between north and south.

However, population, and therefore electricity consumption, is expected to increase faster in the south than in the north of the country because of forecast internal migration patterns.

As a result, electricity cables crossing the north of France’s central and central-western regions will have to be reinforced, said RTE.

RTE reiterated its plan to invest an average of €1.5bn per year in the grid.

RTE publishes a reassessment of their 10-year investment plan every year, and interested parties are invited to comment on the current edition of the investment programme by 31 December 2013. Beatrice Mavroleon

By Beatrice Mavroleon