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La Línea: A Potential Reluctant Host for a Substation to Supply Electricity to Ceuta

Soraya Fernández | Photos: Fran Montes

Locals alongside the City Council of La Línea are voicing their opposition to Red Eléctrica Española’s proposal to build an electrical substation in the Los Portichuelos area, which is an untouched natural area, and are demanding that an alternative location be found. The company said that it is willing to reduce the size of the substation or find another location.

Red Electrica Espanola La Linea Substation Ceuta Los Portichuelos

Plans for an electricity substation to supply power the Spanish autonomous city of Ceuta through underwater 132 KV cabling, are underway – but there is one detail which is causing outrage… its location.

Red Eléctrica Española have applied to build the substation in an area which is currently surrounded by nature – Los Portichuelos, La Línea, which lies between Santa Margarita and La Alcaidesa.

The City Council of La Línea and environmentalists have been vocal in their opposition to this project and maintain that this is not the right place for a substation, and that another location must be found outside of the municipal limits.

In fact, three locations were under consideration initially: Los Lances in Tarifa, Getares in Algeciras and Los Portichuelos – La Hacienda in La Línea.

Red Electrica Espanola La Linea Substation Ceuta Los Portichuelos

The sheer size of the substation is worrying. According to the preliminary plans, the power station will occupy four hectares of land; the equivalent of five football pitches.

The City Council, together with the residents, say that it will cause significant damage to the environment and that they will condemn any kind of development in the only open space that La Línea has.

Red Eléctrica, the company in charge of the intended construction, argues that the interconnection between the mainland Spain and Ceuta represents “an opportunity” for the growth of clean energy in the Campo de Gibraltar, which they say will improve renewable generation rates in the area and that this kind of infrastructure “will increase the reliability of the electrical supply by reinforcing the meshing of high-voltage networks in the peninsula, and, especially in this part of the province, it will enable future integration of 390 and 520 MW of renewable energy”.

According to the company, this increased capacity would broadly cover its electricity demand and make La Línea a “100% renewable municipality and would allow it to become an exporter of green energy to neighbouring areas”.

Red Eléctrica said that this is a strategic project which is integrated into the 2015-2020 electricity transmission network planning which was approved by the Council of Ministers after consultations with the Autonomous Communities.

They say that the interconnection would allow the replacement of fossil fuels in the supply of electricity to the Autonomous City of Ceuta, as well as alleviate the climate emergency in the Strait of Gibraltar, “one of the points with the greatest impact in the planet”.

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But why Los Portichuelos? According to the company, it was a “scientific” decision with the advice of technical advisors who concluded it the most suitable site for this kind of project.

“This project has been under meticulous study to determine what the optimal layout would be from an environmental, social, economic and technical standpoint, with appropriate criteria set out for its design, installation, protection, maintenance and responsible operation…”, Red Eléctrica argues, highlighting the environmental impact assessment it has carried out with professors from the CEIMAR Foundation, the University of Cádiz and the University of Seville.

Red Electrica Espanola La Linea Substation Ceuta Los Portichuelos

And it is thought that it will allow for the implementation of renewable energy parks in this environment and thus generate new economic opportunities and jobs during the execution of the works and in the operation and maintenance phase.

“Measures are also proposed to guarantee the landscaping and safety from an environmental point of view,” the company said.

The arguments have not convinced everyone, and there has been so much backlash in the media that the president of Red Eléctrica, Beatriz Corredor, visited La Línea to meet with the mayor.

After the meeting, which was also attended by the president of the Cádiz Provincial Council, Irene García, it was announced that the company is open to looking for another alternative to change the location of the substation or reduce its size.

Red Electrica Espanola La Linea Substation Ceuta Los Portichuelos

Corredor expressed her willingness to collaborate in the search for agreements on a project, which she has described as being in initial stages and works will not begin for two or three years. She said that the company is willing to find a suitable location.

As it is in a preliminary phase, it allows the incorporation of suggestions and once the processing begins, a public information phase will open that will allow representations for the by any entity or citizen.

Public Outcry

However, the initial unity between the mayor and the civic movement has been broken. The Verdemar-Ecologistas en Acción association, the Flavi neighborhood federation and other associations have joined forces in the Unidad Linense group to lobby against the project.

Under this premise, this platform held a demonstration in the area on the 27th, which neither the mayor nor any representative of the government team attended, although Franco assured that he was willing to camp in Los Portichuelos if Red Eléctrica did not back down. These absences have generated great discomfort. Red Eléctrica and the mayor will meet again soon.

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