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    Ex-Tesco CEO Wants $22 Billion for Morocco-UK Power Pipeline

    27 Sep 2021

    Rabat- Tesco’s former CEO is leading the development of what is projected to be the longest power cable in the world between Morocco and the UK, providing extra renewable energy supplies to the UK.

    UK-based renewable energy solutions company, Xlinks, revealed plans to build a MAD 197 billion ($22 billion) subsea project spanning a distance of 3,800 km.

    This will be able to generate 3.6 GW of energy in Morocco’s Guelmim-Oued Noun region.

    In addition to the solar and wind facilities, a battery that has a capacity of 20 GWh/5 GW will be installed to allow the facility to continue exporting electricity as a “near-constant” source of power.

    The UK is planning to triple its capacity of interconnectors by 2030, which is seen as essential for the country to access power from countries with different resources.

    In addition to recognizing the need to build more renewable capacity to replace gas, the government has also pointed out that current gas prices are sensitive to international market fluctuations, and the recent fuel crisis has illustrated the need to supply alternative fuels.

    'We're approaching this as remote generation so this is solely for the UK energy market,' founder and CEO of Xlinks, Simon Morrish, explained in an interview. 'It's coming from an area which has completely different weather patterns, and is not correlated, so it provides enormous amounts of resiliency to the UK energy system.'

    “The project will harness extremely reliable solar and wind power in Morocco to deliver vital baseload power balancing and enabling our own offshore wind ambitions while reinforcing Morocco’s renewable energy industry,” he added. “Working in tandem with domestic renewables, it makes a reliable, net-zero electricity system by 2035 much more possible in Britain.”

    According to Xlinks, the Morocco-UK power cable could provide electricity to 7 million UK homes. David Lewis, the former CEO of Tesco, and Paddy Padmanathan, the CEO of ACWA Power, are both members of the project’s executive team.

    Xlinks project

    In terms of capacity, Xlinks' 3.6-gigawatt project is big enough to compete with Hinkley Point C by Electricite de France SA. With this project, wind and solar power would be paired with a five-gigawatt battery to provide the UK with an uninterrupted supply of power on demand.

    For renewable energy projects and large infrastructure projects, the government uses an alternative funding method called contract-for-difference (CFD). In a statement, Xlinks said it would charge £48 (MAD 590) per megawatt-hour for the power it would transfer to Britain, less than half what the government agreed upon for Hinkley.

    A CFD application for the project is in preparation, which Lewis said has led the company to discuss the project with the UK government.

    Several factories will be built to manufacture the cables needed by the firm, Morrish said. This will be quicker than waiting for an existing company to manufacture cables. Up until the financial close, which is expected to happen in 2023, the project is fully funded.

    Xlinks has plans to set up its own cable manufacturer in the UK, XLCC. The company is expected to create more than 1,350 jobs by 2024.

    XLCC will be responsible for laying 15,200 kilometers of HVDC cable between Devon (UK) and Morocco. As a result, the company expects to be busy for the next 20 years as demand for interconnectors grows worldwide.

    Xlinks is hoping to begin construction of the cable in 2025, and expects to finish the first half in 2027 and the remainder in 2029.

    Morocco will also benefit from the construction of local facilities, according to Xlinks, which are expected to create nearly 10,000 jobs with 2,000 jobs being permanent.

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