'Cleaner and cheaper': Sunny Spain is banking on renewable energy

2019-12-16 11:59
Serra de Rubio wind farm's wind turbines are pictured in Castellfollit del Boix on December 2, 2019.

Serra de Rubio wind farm's wind turbines are pictured in Castellfollit del Boix on December 2, 2019. (PAU BARRENA / AFP)

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Although the outcome of the United Nations' COP25 climate conference negotiations may not shine for many observers, hospitable Spain welcomed the opportunity to spotlight its fast-tracked shift to renewable sources of energy.

The eco-friendly Socialist caretaker government eagerly pitched its environmental bona fides to tens of thousands who came as diplomats, investors and activists.

With world attention on its green goals, the climate champions hoped to generate enhanced commitments to reduce emissions globally - and to finance electricity projects powered by the Spanish sun's bright rays and the strength of the Iberian wind.

"We must make this transition. There is no other way," said Jose Dominguez Abascal, Spain's secretary of state for energy.

Speaking at a COP25 event on European climate finance for Spain, he said the country is becoming "much better in efficiency, electrification of transport and ... the technology to make renewable electricity very cheap".

"Today, producing with sun or wind in Spain is half the cost we have on the wholesale [electricity] market in Spain," Dominguez said. "We need two things: money and to convince companies that the status quo must be modified." "We cannot keep investing in the same things we've invested in," said the minister, referring to oil and gas companies placing bets on projects that risk becoming stranded assets.

Although the current government of Spain is highly ambitious, climate goals remain far from being realised [Ben Piven/Al Jazeera]  At 74 percent of all energy use, Prado told Al Jazeera that Spain is "still 20 points above the average in Europe. Even though we're on a good path for renewables, it's still far away."

European Union's recent approval of decentralised electricity generation.

Ratification of Spain's climate change law will likely accelerate the transition and create even more investor appetite for renewables. 

'Climate neutrality before 2050'

Spain currently has 28.5GW of renewables - 23.5GW of wind and 5.1GW of solar photovoltaic energy. An additional 62.9GW already has permits but is not operational, two-thirds of which is solar. Beyond that, 84.4GW has been requested by producers.

On the last day of the COP25 conference, climate activists from Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion demanded swifter action [Ben Piven/Al Jazeera]  One gigawatt is the amount of power harnessed by three million solar panels or 412 utility-scale wind turbines.

The massive quantity of applications far exceeds the country's expectations under the National Climate and Energy Plan for 2030.

"Spain is leading the country into achieving climate neutrality before 2050, fulfilling its international commitments in line with science and the calls for more ambition and robust climate action made by Spaniards in the streets," says a pamphlet on the European Green Deal issued by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition.

"The government is planning to phase out coal and nuclear in the next 15 years, though that's still too much for us," said Mario Rodriguez Vargas, executive director of Greenpeace Spain.

"In 2007, [Greenpeace] were the first organisation in Spain, and Europe as a whole, that came out with a 100-percent renewable scenario by 2050," he added. "And people then said we were crazy."

'Economies of scale'

Energy Secretary Dominguez, who works under Ribera, chaired a discussion on Wednesday with three speakers whose organisations - BNP Paribas, the European Investment Bank and Norway's sovereign wealth fund - collectively advise on and lend $2 trillion. Spain's Secretary of State for Energy Jose Dominguez Abascal sought insights from three climate experts at major financial institutions [Ben Piven/Al Jazeera] 

The goal was to showcase how Spain can streamline financing for the development of its renewable sector.

Nancy Saich, the EIB's chief climate change expert, said the focus was "not just about what we finance more of, but also about what we finance less of".

billions in renewables.

Lene Westgaard-Halle, a parliamentarian from Norway's ruling Conservative Party, said that the new policy's goal was "to make Europe cleaner and cut emissions, as well as for us to stay rich".

"It's a political decision," she said, "but also financial. It's important for us to make money." "This part of the oil fund that we invest in renewables is going to become bigger," Westgaard-Halle added, with a nod towards the Spanish energy secretary. "It's a mix of being an idealist and capitalist."

Read more on:    spain  |  renewable energy  |  climate change
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