Green energy route from France to Spain buries MidCat project

Germany appears to have been sidelined in the new deal for cross-border energy security

France's President Emmanuel Macron attends the EU leaders' summit in Brussels on October 20.  Reuters
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The leaders of France, Spain and Portugal on Thursday said they had abandoned a natural gas pipeline project known as MidCat and will instead develop an undersea “green energy corridor” that will eventually transport hydrogen between the cities of Barcelona and Marseille.

“We will work very intensely in the coming weeks to open up the Iberian Peninsula and to build a green energy corridor between Portugal, Spain and France, and through France, to the rest of Europe,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters after a meeting with Portuguese and Spanish delegations at France’s permanent representation in Brussels.

The three leaders are scheduled to meet again on December 8 and 9 in Alicante, Spain, to finalise the project, which will be entitled to European funding.

Speaking as he arrived at a meeting of EU leaders, Mr Macron said the three countries will work on intensifying their electrical interconnections and that the project could also add electricity interconnections.

Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said it was a “magnificent decision that deepens solidarity and commitment to renewables”.

No cost estimate was announced.

Germany made no comment on the announcement despite its heavy involvement in previously championing the MidCat project, which was supposed to go across the Pyrenees.

This seemed to indicate that it was sidelined in the new deal amid diplomatic tensions between France and Germany over how to tackle Europe's energy crisis.

“It is not good that a country isolates itself and it's our role to do everything so that there is European unity and that Germany is part of it,” said Mr Macron on Thursday, when questioned about the tensions.

France opposed the MidCat project, saying it was too costly, would take too long to build and was not the solution to Europe’s energy problems.

The MidCat project emerged a decade ago but was dropped in 2019 over regulatory and funding issues. There was a resurgence of interest in the project after Russia withheld gas deliveries to most of Europe following sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Thursday said that the new pipeline project, which he called the “Green Energy Corridor”, would move hydrogen and gas “during a transition period needed by the European energy market.”

Spain currently has six liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals for processing gas that arrives by sea, which could help the EU boost imports with a better link.

But it only has two low-capacity links to France's gas network, which has connections to the rest of Europe.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: October 23, 2022, 5:49 AM