€307 million set aside for Italy-Tunisia subsea interconnection
As energy transition sweeps across the globe, several efforts are underway to sort out the challenges standing in the way of enabling the modernization and development of European energy infrastructure. One of the latest steps being taken by the European Union (EU) to ensure a green energy future is the signing of the grant agreement to bring to life the first direct current interconnection between Europe and Africa. This has been welcomed by Italy’s transmission power grid operator, Terna, and Steg, the Tunisian electricity and gas company, which will be in charge of the Italy-Tunisia electricity interconnection.
According to Terna, the fourth edition of the PCI Energy Days in Brussels brought the signing ceremony of the grant agreement for the Elmed electrical interconnection between Italy and Tunisia, which initiated the €307 million financing from the European Commission for the subsea power line between the two countries.
Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy, commented: “The Elmed electricity cable link that will connect Italy and Tunisia is exceptional in many ways. It is the first project under the Connecting Europe Facility to receive funding for works on electricity infrastructure project developed by a member state and a third country. I want to congratulate Elmed for showcasing true interconnectivity in practice, and wish the project best of success.”
Moreover, the so-called invisible energy bridge connecting Europe and North Africa, which will be implemented by Terna and Steg, is expected to allow for better renewable energy integration on both continents and promote the diversification of supply sources.
Giuseppina Di Foggia, CEO and General Manager of Terna, remarked: “This event confirms Terna’s increasingly central role in contributing to the realization of a safe, reliable, and resilient European electricity grid. We will continue to collaborate with European institutions, providing both our unique and distinctive expertise and innovative, digitized solutions.
“Elmed is a strategic infrastructure for Italy and Europe, one of the most important projects of Terna’s development plan and will contribute to the increase and integration of renewable energy sources in both continents, allowing our country and the EU to enhance energy independence.”
With 600 MW of power and a total investment of €850 million, the interconnection will be approximately 220 km long and about 200 km under the sea at a maximum depth of about 800 m. This project is expected to contribute to the integration of electricity markets and energy supply security through the diversification of sources.
Fayçel Tarifa, Chairman and General Manager of Steg, underlined: “The financing of €307 million allocated to the flagship Elmed project testifies to the longstanding partnership between the Tunisian government and the European Union in the energy sector, highlighting the strategic importance of this project for a secure, sustainable, and renewable energy future. Furthermore, we are convinced that this project will contribute to achieving the expected goal of energy transition in Tunisia by 2030 and to increasing its level of energy independence.
“This interconnection not only links the Tunisian electrical grid to the Italian grid through a 600 MW submarine cable but also symbolizes the exceptional level of cooperation between the two continents and the two shores of the Mediterranean, especially between Tunisia and Italy. It will open the door to several other projects in the region with the support of European Union institutions.”
Terna is convinced that Elmed will help to reduce emissions, contributing to the achievement of the Italian and European energy and climate goals set by the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan and the Green New Deal.
The Italian TSO put into operation a €90 million undersea cable that connects the island of Elba with Italy’s mainland in September 2023. Prysmian’s cable-laying vessel (CLV) Leonardo Da Vinci laid the 132 kV undersea cable at a maximum depth of around 70 meters below sea level, starting from the island landing site at Portoferraio and continuing towards the continental coast of Piombino.
With the aim of bringing more green electricity to the grid, many European countries are going in hot pursuit of hybrid interconnectors. To this end, Norway’s Statnett is looking into the feasibility of hybrid interconnectors with Denmark and Germany.
Belgian and Norwegian transmission system operators (TSOs), Elia and Statnett, also decided to look into the economic and technical feasibility of such an interconnector to explore the possibility of using a subsea cable to link the high-voltage grids of both countries while being connected to Norwegian offshore wind farms.