Following long delays thanks to French political critics, Spain has moved closer to the possibility of more access to the European natural gas network with an European Union push this spring.
The natural gas connection between the two countries has long been viewed as insufficient by Spanish energy actors, with pipeline systems across the Pyrenees meager in comparison with the large transport systems connecting Spain with North Africa. This connection expanded still further with the opening of the Medgaz pipeline linking Algeria with Southern Spain. Furthermore, the country’s LNG capacity has continued to expand despite a lack of adequate connections to the European energy grid, keeping supplies high. This environment has left Spain and Portugal isolated, especially when it comes to aiding in the EU push to reduce dependence on Russian exports over the last few years.
Energy actors in Spain have largely blamed the lack of progress on the issue on French companies who do not want to open their lines to the Spanish market. However, regional observers have pointed to France’s imports from countries like Norway and suggested that it is not yet economically viable to pursue expansion projects across their southern border given their current connections.
Spain’s case is expected to receive some support this spring with a planned EU energy strategy report that analysts in the region expect will address the transport deficit with political and possible financial support for expansion. The report is expected to address a larger challenge of European grid connections, including the France-Spain case.
Any such support is likely to be well received in Madrid, where the new government led by Mariano Rajoy now faces the daunting task of addressing a 24 billion euro energy deficit, forcing a broad re-evaluation of the country’s energy sector. So far, the review, led by Industry Minister José Manuel Soria López, has resulted in suspensions and planned reductions in renewable subsidy opportunities, alongside pledges to not add new taxes to gas, nuclear or coal programs.