Abu Dhabi’s Taqa invests $31m in British start-up Xlinks First

The start-up plans to build the world's longest high-voltage direct current subsea power cable between Morocco and the UK

A wind farm in the North Sea. The planned UK-Morocco subsea cables will run though Portugal, Spain and France. Getty
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Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, better known as Taqa, has invested £25 million ($31.1 million) in British start-up Xlinks First, which plans to build the world's longest high-voltage direct current (HVDC) subsea power cable between Morocco and the UK.

UK-based energy retailer Octopus Energy also invested £5 million in the company, Xlinks said on Wednesday.

The company will use the funds for the UK-Morocco subsea cables, which will run though Portugal, Spain and France.

The project, expected to provide the UK with 3.6 gigawatts of electricity derived from renewable energy sources, would be able to power seven million British homes by the end of the decade.

“As a champion of low-carbon power and water, Taqa’s investment in the Xlinks project shows that we are serious about helping reduce emissions whilst maintaining the security of energy supply that societies depend on,” said Taqa's group chief executive and managing director Jasim Thabet.

“This investment offers the chance to bring both our infrastructure and renewable power expertise to the table to benefit the UK and Morocco.”

Last month, the UK announced the “Powering up Britain” plan, which focuses on boosting green investment and infrastructure.

The programme focuses on carbon capture technology and advancements in offshore wind technology. It also emphasises the development of new green hydrogen production projects.

The plan, which seeks to guarantee the UK's energy security, is also thought to be a way of countering the impact of the US Inflation Reduction Act.

“This partnership … enables us to drive forward one of the most visionary energy projects in the world,” said Greg Jackson, chief executive and founder of Octopus Energy Group.

“When people ask ‘how will you power heat pumps and electric cars when it’s not windy’, this is a big part of the answer,” said Mr Jackson.

“This is a new global industry, and the UK and our partners can do it first.”

A 10.5 gigawatt project involving solar and wind farms in Morocco's Guelmim Oued Noun region will generate the electricity.

Four subsea HVDC cables, each spanning 3,800km, will link it to the UK power grid in Devon, south-west England.

“Xlinks’ ambition is to supply British households with secure, affordable and green energy all year round,” said Simon Morrish, chief executive of Xlinks.

“With this investment and support from our partners … we take another step towards achieving that ambition.”

The UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has established a dedicated team to work with Xlinks to consider the merits of the project and understand how it could contribute to the UK’s energy security, Xlinks said.

The project is also expected to create about 10,000 jobs in Morocco during construction and lead to significant foreign direct investment in the country.

Morocco, which imports more than 90 per cent of its energy needs, has been one of the early adopters of renewable energy in the Mena region.

The country aims to boost its renewable capacity to 12 gigawatts by 2030 to meet its growing power needs, as well as increase its clean energy capacity, a senior official told The National on the sidelines of the World Utilities Congress in Abu Dhabi last year.

It has also attracted investment from other UAE companies such as Masdar.

The Abu Dhabi clean energy company, in partnership with the National Office of Electricity and Drinking Water, has set up a Solar Home System Project to provide energy to nearly 20,000 homes in more than 1,000 rural towns across Morocco.

Updated: April 26, 2023, 9:55 AM