Slashed offshore target cracks Spanish sector's united front

SPAIN: The Spanish wind industry says a government draft renewables plan that slashes offshore wind targets to a fifth of previous expectations is "reasonable".

But behind the official calm, individual wind companies are brimming with resentment, believing Spanish utility wind players have betrayed the sector from within by supporting the cuts.

The draft Renewable Energy Plan (REP) 2011-2020 — which foresees a €61 billion overall investment in renewables technologies during the period — was publicly outlined by the industry ministry’s energy efficiency agency, Instituto de Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía (IDAE) on May 13. IDAE says the full document will be publicly available soon, following a consultation period with regional government and industry leaders.

The REP marks the second cut in Spanish wind objectives in the past two years. In 2009, government agencies were targeting 40GW onshore capacity by 2020, in addition to 4-5GW offshore, with building at sea to start in 2014.

By June last year, the government had sent its National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) to Brussels, outlining steps towards meeting the 20% primary renewables objective established by the EU’s renewables directive. The NREAP slashed the combined 2020 wind objective to 38GW, with offshore down to 3GW of the total.

Now, May 2011’s draft REP maintains the onshore target but slashes the offshore target to 0.75GW — a fifth of previous expectations (see chart).

Yet, although national wind association Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE) called the plan "not ambitious", it still calmly accepted it as "reasonable given the economic situation". AEE praises the REP’s upholding of the 35GW NREAP target for onshore wind. However, it says the REP should have added the 2.25GW taken from offshore to the onshore target. Spain had 20.6GW online at the end of 2010, all onshore.

AEE represents owners of nearly all installed wind capacity in Spain, almost 50% of which is owned by utilities. While individual AEE members are reluctant to publicly break from the sector’s united front, behind the scenes many associates have confided their disgruntlement over an increase in conflicting interests among the predominant utility members.

Conflict of interests

Increased wind penetration and falling power consumption mean that wind, which has priority access to the grid, is now pushing large amounts of conventional power offline. Combined-cycle gas soared over the past decade from a minor player to the biggest single technology in terms of installed capacity, with more than 25GW online by end-2010.

Decelerated electricity demand, however, coupled with increased wind penetration, which last year rose from about 14% to 16%, has seen combined gas plummet from 33% in 2009 to 26% last year. Other renewables are also growing and, with high rainfall boosting hydropower, accounted for nearly 40% of the mix in last month.

"Nearly all Spain’s gas power belongs to AEE’s utility members E.on, Gas Natural, Iberdrola, Endesa and EDP," says one pure renewables AEE member. "Wind and other renewables are now pushing most gas offline. The more wind is slashed the higher the utilities jump for joy."

Meanwhile, those utilities are directing most of their wind know-how and investments to overseas markets where they have little or no gas interests, such as China and the US.




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