Giorgia Meloni’s government has signaled support for an ambitious new plan aimed at boosting imports to Europe of cheap green energy produced in North Africa.

Italian officials privately met with the executives behind the so-called Medlink project, in a sign that Rome would be willing to throw its political weight behind the plan, people familiar with the matter said.

The project calls for setting up installations including solar panels in Tunisia and Algeria, with the energy produced then exported to the Italian regions of Tuscany and Liguria via subsea lines, according to a confidential project document viewed by Bloomberg News.

The proposal was drawn up by Zhero, a company launched by former executives at gas network operator Snam SpA that recently completed financing of over €100 million ($108 million) for its start-up phase. 

Zhero will need to reach about €5 billion to put the plan into action, the people said, asking not to be named discussing confidential deliberations. This poses a financing challenge to the feasibility of the project as, according to the document, development costs will have be covered by customers who book and buy electricity.

Medlink has some support at European level, having been included in the Entso-e long-term plan for the bloc’s power transmission operators, and it’s been integrated into Meloni’s broader program for Africa that Rome says will foster growth and reduce migrant arrivals by sea.

Energy generated for Medlink could eventually account for 8% of Italy’s annual electricity consumption, according to the document, which also says that providing significant new volumes of supply to the continent could make the country an “energy hub for Europe.”  

That would fit well with Meloni’s plan for the region, which she has personally visited at least three times since taking office in 2022. The initative, dubbed the Mattei plan, is aimed at fostering development in the region and reducing migrant arrivals by sea.

Meloni’s government has already authorized another subsea cable project linking Tunisia and southern Italy. That project, known as Elmed, will be led by state-controlled power grid operator Terna SpA and Société Tunisienne de l’Electricité et du Gaz, according to a May 15 statement.

The new link could give the premier a tangible chance to showcase her commitment to the region and to energy security to European allies as she pushes to elevate Italy’s standing internationally, people familiar with the matter said.

The Tunisia and Algeria-based windmills, solar panels and battery storage sites under Medlink could account for a total of 10 GW installed capacity to deliver up to 28 TW per year of energy to northern Italy via two high-voltage offshore cables, according to the document.

The project, which is scheduled to start operations in 2030, would also aim to export power to Austria, Germany and Switzerland.