30 September, 2023
Daily Mail, by Colin Fernandez

A plan to power British homes using Moroccan wind and sunshine has been given major backing by the Energy Secretary.

Claire Coutinho granted plans to lay a subsea cable from solar and wind farms in the north African country to a Devon village the status of ‘national significance’.

The cable will be 2,360 miles long and provide power for 7million homes by 2030, about 8 per cent of Britain’s energy requirements. Almost 12million solar panels across an area of 62 square miles would take advantage of Morocco’s 3,500 hours of sunshine a year.

And 530 wind turbines over 309 square miles would harness trade winds that blow in the afternoon and evenings, providing a near-constant source of power. The company behind the plan, XLinks, has called the Government’s backing of its project ‘a major milestone’.

But many challenges remain, not least raising the estimated costs of between £20-22billion.

As well as building the world’s longest high-voltage direct current subsea cable, the 659ft-ship needed to lay it 2,296ft below the sea would also be the largest ever constructed.

XLinks also needs to be granted permission to run through Spanish and French waters. The firm said the project would create nearly 10,000 jobs in Morocco, of which 2,000 will become permanent, and that it was consistent with the country’s energy export strategy.

New UK energy security and net zero minister Ms Coutinho said the project was nationally significant due to its potential to help Britain ditch fossil fuels.

She said it could ‘play an important role in enabling an energy system that meets the UK’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and the Government’s objectives to create a secure, reliable and affordable energy supply for consumers’.

Under the national significance designation, any infrastructure would be approved by the Government, instead of local authorities. The cable from Morocco’s Saharan Guelmim-Oued Noun region would emerge at the tiny Devon village of Alverdiscott – population 286 – which will house a 55-acre site for the conversion and storage of energy.

Tory MP for Torridge and West Devon, Geoffrey Cox, said locals support the project but many have ‘grave concerns’ about the location of the industrial site. Sam Richards, of pro-growth campaign group Britain Remade, said the ‘innovative’ project is one the Government ‘should be getting behind’. He added: ‘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.’

Rishi Sunak’s strategy to meet net zero targets has come under intense scrutiny, with the Government earlier this week approving the biggest new North Sea oilfield in years.