Undersea $24bn Green Energy Plan to Transfer Renewable Energy from the Sahara to UK

A £20 billion ($24.5 billion) initiative to transmit renewable energy from Morocco to the United Kingdom through an undersea cable has achieved a significant milestone. Claire Coutinho, the recently appointed Secretary for Energy Security and Net Zero with the UK government, designated it as a nationally significant project.

UK-based developer Xlinks is pursuing an ambitious plan to deliver 3.6 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar energy to the UK via a 3,800-kilometer undersea pipeline. The project is projected to provide electricity to more than 7 million British households by 2030, fulfilling approximately 8% of the country’s electricity demands.

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In September, Xlinks had formally requested Coutinho to recognise its project as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project. This designation shifts the responsibility for approval from local authorities to the government.

Simon Morrish, CEO of Xlinks, described this development as a significant milestone, offering clarity on the legal process and approval timelines for the project. He also emphasised the project’s potential to contribute to the UK’s climate goals and energy security.

Xlinks now plans to engage in further consultations with local authorities, regulatory bodies and the community before seeking planning permission from Coutinho. These consultations are anticipated to commence early 2024.

On the Moroccan side, Xlinks intends to establish 10.5 GW of wind and solar capacity along with 5 GW/20 GWh of battery storage in the southern Guelmim Oued Noun region. This energy will be connected to the UK through four 3,800-kilometer high-voltage direct current (HVDC) cables leading to Devon in England’s southwest. Xlinks has already secured agreements with the UK’s National Grid for two 1.8 GW connections to the grid.

In April, the project received £30 million in funding from the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company and Octopus Energy.

Founded in 2019, Xlinks boasts a management team that includes Paddy Padmanathan, the former CEO of the Saudi Arabia-based power group ACWA, and Sir Dave Lewis, the former CEO of Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain.

Sam Richards, founder of the campaign group Britain Remade, lauded the project as an innovative clean energy initiative deserving of government support. He emphasised its potential to reduce reliance on costly foreign gas and enhance the UK’s energy security.

Following the project’s new designation, Richards stressed the importance of avoiding bureaucratic delays and challenges that often plague clean energy projects in the UK. The Xlinks project bears similarities to a billionaire-backed plan to transmit green energy from Australia to Singapore via a 4,200-kilometer link. There are also proposals for another 1,400-kilometer subsea cable to transport 3 GW of renewable energy from Egypt to Greece.