Gamesa threatens 'unwelcoming' Spain

SPAIN: Spain's dominant wind turbine manufacturer, Gamesa, is threatening further factory closures unless the government puts in place policies that are more favourable to the wind industry.

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Addressing a business forum in Bilbao on February 1, Gamesa's chief executive, Jorge Calvet, said his company would consolidate its activities abroad unless "stable sector regulation is reinstated" at home. Gamesa closed its Alsasua blade factory in Navarra last year.

Equity investors, who have seen Spain's formerly booming renewables market struggle since 2009, responded favourably to Calvet's words. Since the announcement, Gamesa's share price has been experiencing steady growth. According to local analysts Renta 4, Gamesa's new plans are sensible in view of the over-capacity that affects Spain's decelerating wind power market.

However, Calvet's declarations were dismissed by some observers as "attention-seeking exaggeration". Blaming the Spanish government's "lack of stable and clear regulation", Calvet claimed that all of Gamesa's sales in 2010 had been made outside Spain. In fact, Gamesa did make some sales in Spain in the first ten months of 2010, but they represented a mere 7% of the company's global sales, plummeting from a 36% share in 2009.

Calvet's outburst has been interpreted by some as sour grapes over Gamesa's failure to win recent bids in Galicia for 2.3GW and in neighbouring Cantabria for 1.4GW. Gamesa is already closing one of its six facilities in Galicia and is studying further closures.

But Calvet's point that Gamesa will focus on markets "where we are welcome" is significant. The company is already building facilities in India and Brazil, while a UK site for its global offshore hub is imminent.

A 2009 Spanish regulation introduced a project-licensing register that caps new wind capacity to end-2012, with only 1.5GW of additional annual capacity allowed between now and then. Spain saw 3.5GW of new wind capacity installed in 2007.

The industry blames this measure - and the lack of visibility about what will happen after 2012, when the current wind production incentive expires - for the loss of 10,000 jobs in the sector.

Gamesa had plans to double its production capacity in Spain from the current 2GW to 4GW. But, "failing policy improvements", it now expects to halve domestic capacity instead, according to Calvet. He has urged the Spanish government to act promptly to reinstate a wind-friendly long-term policy.

"The (Spanish) government seems determined to shrink Spain's world-class wind market to reduce the cost of incentives across the electricity sector," confides a member of the Spanish wind power association. A recent study by consultants Deloitte calculates that the wind industry contributed more than EUR10 billion to Spain's gross domestic product in 2007-09, far outweighing the EUR3.7 billion paid out in wind production incentives over the same period.

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