A £20bn ($24.5bn) plan to pump green energy from Morocco to Britain through an undersea cable passed a “major milestone” as the UK government named it as a nationally significant project.
UK developer Xlinks said the decision had been made by Claire Coutinho, the recently appointed secretary for energy security and net zero.
Xlinks is pursuing an eye-catching plan to beam 3.6GW of wind and solar energy to the UK through a 3,800km undersea pipeline. It claims the project could power over 7 million British homes by 2030, meeting around 8% of Britain’s electricity needs.
Xlinks had asked Coutinho earlier this month to declare its plan as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. The designation means that it now falls on the government, rather than local authorities, to give it the go-ahead.
“This is a major milestone for our project,” said Xlinks CEO Simon Morrish, continuing that it “provides certainty and clarity over the legal process and timescales for consenting the project.”
“The decision reflects the real difference that our project can make to the country’s climate commitments and energy security,” he added.
Now Xlinks says it needs to carry out further consultation with local authorities, statutory bodies and the community before applying to Coutinho for planning permission. That consultation is expected to take place early next year.
On the Moroccan side, Xlinks aims to build 10.5GW of wind and solar allied to 5GW/20GWh of battery storage in its southern Guelmim Oued Noun region.
This will be connected to the UK via four 3,800km high-voltage direct current (HVDC) cables to the county of Devon in England’s southwest.
Xlinks says it has reached an agreement with the UK’s National Grid for two 1.8GW connections to the grid.
In April, it secured £30m in new funding for the project from the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company and Octopus Energy.
Xlinks was founded in 2019 and its management team includes Paddy Padmanathan, the former CEO of Saudi Arabia-based power group ACWA, and Sir Dave Lewis, who for many years was the CEO of Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain.
Sam Richards, founder of campaign group Britain Remade, said the project “is the kind of innovative clean energy development that the government should be getting behind.”
“Not only will it help cut our dependence on expensive foreign gas, it will play an important role in Britain becoming energy secure.”
Following the project’s new designation, Richards said it is “essential that it does not become a victim of the red tape and bureaucratic turmoil that blights so many clean energy projects in Britain.
“Far too often the clean energy infrastructure we need to achieve net zero is held up by dither and delay by Government and spurious legal challenges,” he added.
The Xlinks project has echoes of a billionaire-backed plan to pump green power from Australia to Singapore via a 4,200km link. There are also plans for another such 1,400km subsea cable sending 3GW of green energy from Egypt to Greece.