International Project Management

The EU recently announced the approval of record funding for an energy infrastructure project between France and Spain which will be beginning in 2018. The $717 million funding for the France-Spain powerlink project is part of a program by the EU to integrate European renewable energy and natural gas markets. This collection of interdependent projects has the strategic purpose of further connecting European energy markets in order to enhance Europe’s security of supply and reduce dependence on Russian gas.

The building of the Franco-Spanish powerlink  is an expensive and complex project which involves the coordination of multiple countries and agencies. It appears to be challenging, but is a more manageable proposition when effective project management strategies are utilized. Project management is the systematic, phased approach to defining, organizing, planning, monitoring and controlling projects. This project is in its early stages and has not yet begun execution so not all stages of the project management approach are applicable. Nonetheless the frame of project management allows onlookers to analyze the path this project has taken so far and that which it will tread in the future.


The Problem

The Iberian peninsula is separated from neighboring states by a geographical bottleneck, and is similarly isolated from EU energy networks due to its positioning. Spanish energy executives complain that France is reluctant to increase cross-border energy infrastructure which would end this isolation. Member states in the EU expect a 10% level of interconnectedness to the energy networks within the union, but Spain only has an interconnectedness of 6%.


The Process

It is essential to the success of a project that project goals are defined and measurable. The “interconnectedness percentage” referenced earlier is a long term goal for EU member-countries, but the project goal for the Franco-Spanish powerlink is more specific. The Franco-Spanish powerlink aims to increase the power exchange capacity between these two countries from 2,800 megawatts to 5,000 megawatts through the construction of a 230 mile subsea power cable stretching across the Bay of Biscay. This project has funding of $717 million and is scheduled to begin late 2018 and complete in early 2025. The stated objectives, time-frame, and resource allocation of the project define what a project success is from the beginning.

After definition of the project is accomplished organization of teams is necessary. Underwater construction that spans hundreds of miles is an engineering wonder and requires a great degree of technical competence. Additionally, construction along the Spanish and French coasts requires good communication systems among project workers to confront possible miscommunications due to language barrier. Since this project requires high-level difficult work the team is still being organized.

It is important to notice the organizational structure this project will be taking place within. The organization funding this project is the EU, a large intergovernmental body in charge of many varied operations. Due to the size and flexibility of their activities it is likely that they utilize a Matrix project model wherein project managers make decisions but report to program managers and coordinate across functional boundaries. This allows project manager and their team team to fully focus on the Franco-Spanish powerlink while other EU-run operations continue in parallel.

As this project continues to develop, those in charge will continue to consider the project management approach being taken in order to achieve effective results. If successfully monitored and controlled, this project is scheduled to greatly ameliorate Spain’s energy issues by 2025.

7 thoughts on “International Project Management

  • February 8, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    It is good to hear about increase in transportation between countries, specially when it is intertwined with the use of renewable energies and more eco-friendly alternative fuels.
    This project remained me when I was in England and I traveled to Paris on the Eurostar rail service. This is also a train that travels underwater, and it was built in 1994. The channel tunnel is built 50 meter underwater and it was a very tough project.
    The construction of the project started in 1988, but it was inaugurated in 1994. It took 8 years for the construction alone, probably a few years after the inception of the project. Not only that, but it was one of the most expensive projects up to that point in history. It took 9 billion pounds and it required over 13000 engineers, constructors and technicians. All of these comments come to play as a comparison to your blog post. If over 20 years ago, two countries from the EU were able to combine forces to create one of the biggest railway projects up to date I am sure that this one will be a success as well. But there is still a long way to go since the project is at an early start on the defining stage.

  • February 8, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Matt, this is a very interesting project to study. Not only is this a project run by two, or three, major entities, it is an international project that serves two separate interests. While the project will be overseen by the EU, France and Spain will have conflicting self-interests that could make this project significantly more difficult to execute. It is hard enough for a project to navigate the channels of one government bureaucracy, let alone two, as well as a large international body. I would not be surprised if this project significantly exceeds the timeline and budget proposed.

    • February 8, 2018 at 6:07 pm


      I enjoyed you post. I think this is an interesting topic that clearly has quite a few moving parts. The impact of the political unrest in Spain with the fight for Catolonian independence just adds to the complication that can arise between international infrastructure negotiations. I agree with ben that becuase of the difficult channels of government bureaucracy the project could exceed its projected timeline and estimated cost.

  • February 8, 2018 at 12:10 am

    Managing this project sounds like an absolute nightmare. The project itself is massive, and you have already noted some of the many problems this is going to have. Since it stretches across borders, there are going to have to be people how can help overcome the language barriers as you’ve said. They will also have to deal with paperwork from both sides. This paperwork is then kicked back to the offices that are involved with the EU. Now the project management has to go through both countries and the entirety of the EU. This makes communication difficult and most likely very inefficient. As you have noted, the EU is probably going to use a system of managers who will have to keep in contact with one another to make sure progress is being made correctly and at the right times. This is likely where the language barrier will hurt the most. This is where something like an AI or an algorithm could come into play and help simplify the processes of the project. An algorithm would be able to make decisions strictly off data given to it, while not having to worry about losing something in translation. Data is universal and would vastly help the efficiency of the project.

  • February 7, 2018 at 11:36 pm


    As you know, I was one of your classmates at our institution abroad in Madrid, Spain. Therefore, I think there is a shared concern between you and I particularly for Spain. I think it was awesome that you attacked such a complex issue going on in Europe right now.

    It is interesting to see how this plan will pan out. Due to the fact that the teams for this enormous project are not set in stone yet is concerning, and leads me to think there might be a push-back of the time frame or some scope going along with it. That 717-million-dollar funding could quickly turn into a 1 billion dollar project, and I hope that the management of this project can avoid that happening, which is often a problem with large projects such as this one.

  • February 7, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Matt, from your description, this project seems to be unbelievably complex with a lot of moving pieces and people to coordinate. It looks like this France-Spain Powerlink Project has already passed the defining and organizing phases of project management. Spain needs to tap deeper into the energy network of the EU, and to accomplish this goal, a 230-mile power cable needs to be constructed and placed in order to link Spain to France and the rest of Europe. The most difficult and tedious aspect of project management, the planning, is probably what the managers of the project are dealing with right now. First, the mangers will need to identify the critical path, or the path that will take the longest amount of time to complete. In this situation, it seems like actually constructing the cross-country cable and connecting the two countries with it could serve as a strong candidate for being the critical path. Within this path, there will be so many little details and goals to be accomplished, and while this path is coming together, other paths could be suspended in the state of slack where no action can take place. This planning phase will take up most of the projected timeline for the project. Once 2025 roles around, the expected completion year for the project, the planning and implementation should be complete and make way for the final two stages of project management, monitoring and control. By that time, I’ll be curious to see whether or not the planning and preparation that has gone into the project will smoothly manifest itself in the monitoring and controlling phases of the project.

    • February 7, 2018 at 8:28 pm


      I liked how to mapped out all the steps and stages that are necessary for this project to be successful. I would add that they will probably want to keep track of different parts of their project in relation to others with a Gantt Chart. This will help them during their planning stage and to make sure they are on schedule during the implementation stage. Something else that they should consider and the costs. They have $717 in funding and it is their responsibility that the stay on budget. To do this, they must track their penalty, incentive, and crash costs. It will be interesting to see what happens with this project in the upcoming years.

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