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Italy, Tunisia agree to proceed with 600 MW subsea cable

London — Italy and Tunisia have signed an agreement to proceed with the proposed 600 MW Elmed subsea power link joining the countries' power grids.

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The deal for the interconnector, an EU Project of Common Interest eligible for support funding, was signed Tuesday by Italy's Vice President Luigi di Maio and Tunisia's Industry Minister Slim Feriana, according to a statement by Italy's Economic Development Ministry.

The high voltage direct current link will connect the Italian grid at Partanna on Sicily to El Hawaria in Tunisia. The subsea cable length was put at 192 km, with 32 km of underground cable in Sicily and 5 km in Tunisia.

The project will be carried out by the respective TSOs -- Terna (Italy) and Steg (Tunisia) -- and was expected to be completed by 2025, according to an estimate by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (Entso-e).

Elmed gained PCI status in 2017 and has received funding from the World Bank for a feasibility study, which is currently ongoing.

The total cost of the project is estimated at Eur600 million ($672 million), half of which was expected to be financed by the EU and the remainder by public-private partnerships, according to the ministry.

In the short term, "the project will contribute to reduce, under specific conditions, present and future limitations to the power exchanges on the northern Italian border, with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia, and therefore it will allow to significantly increase the transmission capacity and its exploitation by at least 500 MW on that boundary," Entso-e said.

As part of Italy's strategic plan to 2027, the country is beefing up capacities on borders with all its northern neighbors, while an undersea link with Montenegro is scheduled to come online this year.

In the long term, a link across the Mediterranean is seen as key to take advantage of the abundant solar resources in Tunisia, which receives twice the amount of solar energy as central Europe.

-- Stuart Elliott, stuart.elliott@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Dan Lalor, daniel.lalor@spglobal.com