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Spain

Spain

Final decision awaits on premium prices, Wind payments

Spanish delegates at the European Commission's Altener conference were relieved to hear that Spain's Conservative government will keep to the former socialist government's policy of supporting renewables with premium price payments for electricity. But it was unclear whether Spain would retain today's level of premium prices or reduce tariffs to bring them in line with the government's protocol for introducing more competition in the market.

News that Spain's Conservative government will keep to the former socialist government's policy of supporting renewables with premium price payments for electricity was greeted with relief by delegates at a three day conference in November organised by the European Commission's directorate for energy. The renewables sector in Spain had feared that a new power protocol, due to be signed last month, would not reflect the needs of the alternative energy sector and sizeable investments would be seriously endangered.

Breaking the good news at the EC's Altener programme conference, Nemesio Fernandez Cuesta, Spain's Secretary of State for Energy, promised that renewables within the "new power structure in Spain would continue to enjoy premium prices." Fernandez Cuesta added that annual government spending on coal industry support currently amounts to ESP 220 billion, whereas renewables get just ESP 10-15 billion. "And renewables," he said, "provide clean energy and do not pollute the air we breathe."

What was not immediately clear, though, was whether Spain would retain today's level of premium prices or reduce tariffs to bring them in line with the government's protocol for introducing more competition in the market. Fernandez Cuesta would not be drawn: "We will maintain the premium prices to ensure the viability of the sector. By doing this we are not adhering strictly to market mechanisms, but the social benefits of less pollution more than justify the cost."

Wind figured prominently on the agenda of the Altener conference, held at Sitges from November 25-27. The general director of the Institute For the Diversification and Saving of Energy (IDAE), Concepcion Canovas del Castillo, announced a 400% increase in the amount of wind power to be up and running in Spain by the end of this year. According to Canovas del Castillo, if all pending wind projects are connected to the grid, Spain will get 400 MW of new capacity within twelve months. The conference, which drew some 700 experts from 20 European countries, was closed by Isabel Tocino, Spain's first minister for the environment. She said the renewables sector would get her full support.

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