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Malaga does not have an electricity grid distribution network sufficient to power large business projects
Energy

Malaga does not have an electricity grid distribution network sufficient to power large business projects

The energy demand of a large logistics centre in Antequera as well as other projects in the province, including proposed data centres, has experts in the sector worried

Ignacio Lillo

Malaga

Wednesday, 19 June 2024, 17:04

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Malaga province does not have an electricity grid distribution network sufficient to power large business projects, meaning some customers are on a waiting list to receive it or expand their supply.

The energy demand of the large Andalusian freight hub in Antequera, dubbed the province's 'dry port', will require a tenfold increase in its current electricity consumption, according to sources at Spanish electrical company Endesa. At present, the high voltage network is not ready to supply such volumes, according to various experts in the sector.

In the case of the recently inaugurated dry port, it has been granted 12 megawatts for the moment, but has already requested a further 60 megawatts to meet industrial demand, but this will have to wait. This removes the possibility of hosting one of the potential client sectors that was first considered, the large data centres, which would require an improved electricity supply. According to sources close to the project, just one of these facilities would already consume all the power available in this first phase. To achieve this volume, the developer would need to connect to a substation in Archidona, which would involve 24 kilometres of cable laying.

Projects such as hydrogen plants and data centres have ordered more electricity capacity adding up to 200 megawatts

"There are supply problems with Red Eléctrica, which is not prepared either to lose power or to supply large consumers," they said. As it is, although three projects have been mentioned, the reality is there is not enough energy capacity in the province to supply a large data processing centre.

On the other hand, for logistics customers, such as dry and refrigerated warehouses, there is supply capacity, among the renewable energies planned for the large logistics centre in Antequera, with the guarantee of grid support. Sources said there is a lot of interest in locating there, especially due to the railway connections.

Antequera mayor Manuel Barón expressed his concern at a recent discussion forum organised by SUR. He called for necessary power supply lines to be installed, with a good cost-benefit ratio, and warned: "If a region does not commit to renewables, it will be closing itself off to all investments from Germany, France or Scandinavia".

Institutional concern

The mayor advocated that local councils should be aware of the need to promote projects in the face of self-interested platforms that oppose them. "In rural areas, a new form of economy and industrialisation has always been demanded in order to generate employment and the economy. This is it. We are going to continue to promote it in a reasonable way because either we have renewables or we have no future," Barón said.

In many other areas throughout Andalucía, companies request power and Endesa tries to find a solution in distribution with studies of alternatives for industrial power, which has to be connected to higher voltage networks, and this usually entails costs that have to be assumed by the requesting party. But there are times when there are no options in the distribution area, expert sources pointed out.

In the case of a demand in transmission (the name given to the large grids, which depend on Red Eléctrica), it will have to be taken into account that this organisation works with longer-term planning periods: the current one has a horizon of 2026 and the next one will be for 2030. Therefore, the applicant would have to wait for the long-term planning approved by the government.

In these cases, the Junta, with data provided by Endesa, points out the areas where the greatest growth in demand is observed, and asks Red Eléctrica to consider solutions for these cases. But even so, these investment plan procedures are very slow and with long deadlines, which are not useful for current industrial projects.

Hydrogen and data

The dry port has been granted 12 megawatts for the moment, but has already requested a further 60 megawatts. Amid the establishment of the large logistics centre, other interested investors have arrived, such as hydrogen plants and data centres, adding another 200 megawatts needed to power the area. The 260 megawatts would mean a tenfold increase in the current consumption of the entire region. The expansion of the Antequera logistics park is also in this situation of uncertainty.

There is currently no distribution infrastructure to support this. Therefore, Red Eléctrica has to create new distribution infrastructure and inject power to respond to the urgent demand for power.

The problem is not exclusive to Malaga province, but happens throughout the Andalucía region, Extremadura and even in Madrid, where data centres cannot find the necessary supply to power their servers. There is also another stumbling block, known in technical jargon as "seized power". These are those power supply allocations that are granted and reserved for developments that are not certain to be carried out; this blocks access to energy for others who have more certainty.

Renewable energies

Renewable projects do have to meet a series of legal checks to gain access to evacuation lines. And they also face problems in obtaining connections to the large grids.

"There is a bottleneck in some parts of the province due to the lack of capacity in the transmission grid," said sources in the sector. Again, this situation is an issue in almost all of Andalucía, which accounts for a large part of the national production of renewables.

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