Small fish beat big fish in Galicia -- Uproar as giant tender closes

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The government of Galicia, Spain's northernmost and windiest region, has granted prospecting rights for 2291 MW of wind farm development following one of Europe's biggest calls for proposals. Galicia's aim is to raise its wind capacity from around 3 GW to 6 GW by 2012. With a few exceptions, the bulk of the awards go to new wind project developers local to Galicia and not to members of the established wind industry. Uproar over the selection has ensued, with claims that local interests have been unreasonably favoured, particularly the region's savings banks and ailing agro-food industry.

The scandal has already become political, with the opposition right wing People's Party -- itself accused of partiality during its decade of governing Galicia to 2005 -- threatening to halt the entire process if it wins the regional election on March 1. Environmentalists are pressuring for the same, alleging negligence in siting rules.

"The list of losers is as telling as the 29 winners," says Luis Merino of analyst firm Energías Renovables. "The shift is away from big national and international developers hooked up with turbine manufacturers promising factories; rather, it is towards a wide group of multifarious local industries and banks."

In that sense, even the winners are losers. EDP Renováveis, the renewables wing of Portuguese utility Energías de Portugal, won a concession for just 126 MW, the ninth largest, after proposing to build 1300 MW. Yet in return for a concession of at least 300 MW, the company had promised to procure turbines from Vestas' local factory and for every one megawatt ordered, order a further megawatt for use elsewhere. EDP declines to comment on how that industrial commitment stands. With sensitivities compounded by the local elections, all players remain tight lipped on the tender result.

The only other wind major in the top nine is utility Endesa, in fourth place, with rights to develop 174 MW out of its bid for 734 MW. Similarly, Acciona, Spain's second largest wind producer after Iberdrola, landed just 72 MW out of proposals for 962 MW, of which 348 MW was bid by Acciona alone and 615 MW through its Eurovento 50-50 joint venture with Japan's Eurus, one of Galicia's biggest wind operators. Acciona's bid was backed by an offer to build a local wind turbine assembly facility for its own technology in return for a concession of 400 MW or more. The only other big name among the top 20 concessions is Gamesa, Spain's dominant turbine manufacturer, which landed the 42 MW it applied for.

Galicia-based utility Unión Fenosa won just 15 MW of its 1000 MW proposal, while out of the game entirely is Iberdrola Renovables, which bid to build 739 MW on top of the 600 MW it already owns in Galicia. Major Spanish wind developers Eólica de Navarra, Capital Energy and Olivento (recently sold by Babcock & Brown Wind Partners to Spain's Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA) got nothing at all.

Small fish happy

The largest winning bid, for 235 MW, was won by Galenova, a firm in which regional savings bank Caixa Nova has a controlling interest. The second largest, at 216 MW, came from Aucosa Eólica, a consortium of local agro-food businesses. None of the remaining concessions tops 200 MW and the average over the remaining 27 winning companies, mainly local businesses, is 68 MW. The potential for large industrial spin-offs barely exists, notes Merino.

Proposals were evaluated under a series of criteria, each of which was allocated a maximum number of points achievable. Bidders could win most points -- 22 out of an overall maximum of 100 -- by agreeing to cede 15% of each project's capital stake to the regional government, or Xunta. Angry protestors have called the government, a coalition between the socialist PSOE-PSG party and the Galician Nationalist Party, short-sighted in its approach.

To add to the problems, over 30% of the selected projects are in nature areas with EU protection in place or lined up, confirms Galician environment minister Manuel Vazquez. He has promised his department will be "stringent" in assessing environmental impact. The regional press has taken this as virtual confirmation that he will reject at least some projects -- if the coalition is voted back in, that is. "If not, the whole process could go back to the drawing board," says Merino.

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