Connections between the national electricity systems have been historically developed in parallel to each country’s internal networks. Initially, the connections sought foreign support in case a failure affecting the reliability of the national electricity supply should occur. However, it has been shown that connections are not only useful for exceptional situations, but that they offer outstanding benefits also under normal operating conditions: power plant daily production optimization, better opportunities for use of renewable energies, creation of competition, and improvement of the supply conditions.
These were the objectives of the new connection between France and Spain, operational since 2015, which brings both countries even closer, and represents a significant step towards a more integrated Europe from an energy point of view. The new ±320 kV line doubles the power exchange capacity prior to the connection and goes from 1,400 to 2,800 MW, a jump which will allow for a greater incorporation of renewable energies to the European network, and which adds supply solidity and reliability, not only in Spain and France, but throughout the EU.
Prior to the construction of the new connection, surplus wind production generated in Spain could not be exported to the rest of the continent due to the limitations of the four high-voltage power lines connecting France and Spain (Arkale-Argia, Hernani-Argia, Biescas-Pragnères, and Vic-Baixas.) With the new infrastructure, electricity is no longer circulating between both countries through "back roads" but rather through a "multiple lane highway", which facilitates the incorporation of clean energy - the generation of which is less stable, and is subject to weather conditions - without putting the supply at risk. As it operates within the European electricity system, one of the largest networks in the world, the leeway for action is greater in case of a supply failure both in France and in Spain.
The European Union recommends promoting the electric connection capacity between its States. France exchanges electricity with six countries of the Union, but Spain, conditioned by its geographical location, has been traditionally considered as an "energy island". The connection between Baixas and Santa Llogaia brings Spain closer to the 2002 EU recommendation that a State’s connection capacity be at least 10% of the country’s total electricity generation. The importance of the connection between Baixas and Santa Llogaia transcends, therefore, the cross-border level, and is a key element for the development of the European energy policy.
Reliability of the supply
International connections are very important in order to ensure the reliability of electric supply in countries, as they allow for the export of energy when there is high production and low demand (e.g., at night) and vice versa. It is also possible to import electricity when demand surges take place, or when any electric system malfunction happens. The network works as a mutuality: the bigger it is, the smaller the risk.
The connection capacity increase between France and Spain, thanks to the line Baixas-Santa Llogaia, is bringing solidity to the whole of the European electricity network and is, therefore, increasing the resistance to potential risks and incidents, which is a remarkable improvement in the supply quality and reliability of both countries and, specifically, of the l’Empordà and Roussillon areas.
The electricity exchange increase between France and Spain also contributes for the European system to be more efficient and less energy is wasted, with fewer leaks.
European electricity market
One of the benefits of the connections is that they extend the electricity market, in this European case, which allows for a cost reduction in the generation of electric power. Because the network is expanded, the transportation and generation optimum is greater.
The line between Baixas and Santa Llogaia therefore favors the energy exchange between Spain and France, and as a result, stimulates the integration of the electricity markets, which allows for the electric energy price adjustment between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe.
Spain and France have made a commitment in recent years for the promotion of renewable energy, especially wind-powered energy, thus contributing to the 2020 European Union energy objective - a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, a 20% improvement in energy efficiency, and have 20% of energy consumption from renewable sources.
The increase in renewable energy production, the generation of which is very variable and geographically dispersed, requires a high connection level that gives the system flexibility. As the exchange capacity increases, the total volume of renewable production that the network is able to integrate in reliable conditions is also increased.
The inclusion in the European system of cleaner energy, from renewable sources, is only possible if we are connected. As it is not yet possible to store the energy, a back-up is needed for when renewables (variable due to their very nature) do not generate the expected energy in a State of the Union and that State needs to reinforce the supply.
The connection between Baixas and Santa Llogaia, because it expands the power exchange capacity, facilitates the renewable energy system integration. Only with the back-up of a solid and sufficiently meshed network is it possible to continue incorporating renewable energy, which are cheaper and free of CO2 emissions.
According to Entso-E, thanks to the connection and a greater incorporation of renewable energy to the system, about one million tons of CO2 will not be discharged into the atmosphere annually.