A bold approach to conciliation

Spain has a new national wind lobby, Plataforma Eólica Empresarial (PEE), founded in November. The name roughly translates to Wind Power Business Platform. PEE president Jose Galindez says the platform aims to attract and represent the whole range of businesses and professionals which make up Spain's wind sector. He also says PEE will approach specific problems with an open mind, even to the point of sitting down with the enemy to find a meeting point.

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Wind's interests are not always the same as those of the other renewables and outright confrontation with the operators of Spain's power market and the

grid is doing the wind sector no good at all. For these reasons members of the Spanish wind industry have formed a new

lobby group

Spain has a new national wind lobby, Plataforma Eólica Empresarial (PEE), founded in November. The name roughly translates to Wind Power Business Platform. PEE president Jose Galindez says the platform aims to attract and represent the whole range of businesses and professionals which make up Spain's wind sector. He also says PEE will approach specific problems with an open mind, even to the point of sitting down with the enemy to find a meeting point. PEE already has eleven wind industry members, including some giants such as Gamesa, Endesa, and Nuon. More are lining up.

"Since PEE came on the scene in November we have perceived a general feeling that a wide range of wind and electricity sector players have been crying out for something like this for a long time," says Galindez. "For a start, our membership aims at a broad base to include all entities involved in wind power, from standard developer involvement to participation from manufacturers and financing and insurance institutions." Galindez adds that wherever there are technical, economic or administrative hitches to wind growth, PEE will create working groups that will sit down with all involved parties to evaluate and tackle specific problems. "If we want to maximise wind sector potential we cannot afford to turn a deaf ear regarding increasing institutional criticism of wind power."

PEE defines the external parties as electricity board Comisión Nacional de Energía (CNE), grid operator Red Electrica de España (REE), electricity market operator Compañía Operadora del Mercado Eléctrico and the central and regional governments. He also hopes to work in collaboration with the American and European wind energy associations.

The main attraction for new members, apart from the fact that non-developers are welcome, is probably PEE's whirlwind agenda. The platform has defined four basic committees each with their own problem area to tackle -- technical, economic, administrative processing and institutional. They have already started work and aim to produce reports and recommendations by the spring. Each committee will contract consulting help wherever necessary. PEE has already compiled a preliminary report on grid connection bottlenecks to the central technology ministry.

One of PEE's most outstanding plans is to present, by spring this year, the basis for a pilot scheme for CO2 emissions trading. This breaks one of Spain's traditional wind-lobby taboos by suggesting an alternative to its sacred payback tariff, which pays wind 90% of the overall electricity market price for every kWh produced, whether or not required by distributors. Not that Galindez is against the tariff. In fact he says it is the only support mechanism that has been proven to drive a significant market in Europe. PEE, however, sees wind power as a dynamically evolving industry and wants to respond to every eventuality. Galindez also believes that Europe's nascent CO2 market will grow and that increased consolidation throughout the wind industry via mergers will make CO2 trading more feasible.

Does PEE's approach represent implicit criticism of the way things have been done so far? Galindez is diplomatic. He says PEE marks an "evolution" of wind lobbying rather than an alternative to the wind section of the national renewables association, Asociación de Pequeños Productores Autogeneradores (APPA), the traditional champion of Spanish wind. Galindez says the best way forward is to work hand in hand with APPA. Indeed, all but one of PEE's founding companies -- all wind developers -- retain their APPA membership. Possibly its most powerful member, developer giant Gamesa, says its membership is part of its policy to participate in all major wind industry lobby platforms at local, regional, national and international level.

Fear of polarisation

Nevertheless, Galindez is worried about the polarisation between wind and the mainstream electricity sector. The problem, he thinks, stems partly from "misperceptions by the electricity sector regarding the realities of wind." But he also links polarisation to APPA's defence of wind from a general renewables platform. Galindez perceives increasing reiteration of Spain's legally binding 12% renewables objective as defence for both the renewables tariff and priority access to the grid. As far as PEE sees it, APPA's message is that any negative repercussions of wind are small, compared with mainstream generation, and given wind's statutory backing, the onus is on operator and distributor to deal with any costs and problems.

"APPA plays its role very well, especially with regard to a wider public," says Galindez. "But the specific realities of wind also require specific solutions and an open mind." Galindez points to last summer's ministerial bill, which, for the first time, allows grid operator REE to dispatch wind power production between a minimum of 5000 MW, during trough demand, and 10,000 MW, at peak times. This will whip away wind producers' right to sell all production irrespective of demand. The same bill puts a 13,000 MW lid on total installed wind capacity nationwide. With Spain's current total at around 4200 MW, the eventuality of shutting down wind plant due to excess production is a long way off -- especially given REE's estimate that the wind can never blow more than 80% of total installed wind generating capacity into the grid at any one time. "But the restrictions are there on the horizon," says Galindez.

An active defence

PEE thinks that if the wind sector merely waits for a court clash between renewables legislation and ministerial decree (maybe in four or five years when installed capacity could exceed the 5000 MW minimum), REE and the distributors are going to grow ever less wind friendly. Galindez stresses that REE holds the key to most grid connection bottlenecks already blocking thousands of megawatts of wind projects. "Better to see eye to eye wherever possible," he says.

Galindez claims that REE has given "very welcoming signals" to PEE's arrival on the scene. "REE knows more about grid dynamics than we do. But we know more about wind production than they do. Why not pool our knowledge to find solutions? Maybe some compromises on wind production will be necessary. But if that means the wind industry can continue growing then we will be fulfilling our aim," says Galindez. "It seems that wind production may only be significantly troublesome to the grid for a small proportion of the time. Who knows, we might find that in the future shutting down some wind production for three, four or five per cent of the time will resolve 90% of the problems it causes REE."

Sour grapes?

Political frictions between APPA and PEE are glaringly apparent, not least of all from APPA's reluctance to pronounce officially on the new platform, which, after all, spreads lobbying resources more thinly. Off the record, APPA staff members refute any inference that their association is not getting down to the nitty-gritty with the appropriate agents. Some even suspect PEE of sour grapes following the defeat of the PEE block's favoured candidate in APPA's internal elections in the autumn for a new wind-section president.

Furthermore, Galindez is boss of the Guascor industrial group, which entirely controls the one company to have left APPA (prior to PEE), Corporación Eólica SA (CESA), Spain's leading non-utility linked wind developer. Galindez admits that if the internal election for APPA's new wind section president had been in favour of PEE's candidate there might have been no need to create a separate platform. In an off-the-cuff response in November, APPA's chief officer, Manuel de Delas, said that PEE "might at least have waited a few weeks [before forming] to see how things under the new president pan out."

Widening the base

But despite the internal politics, PEE's argument has not only drawn support from a powerful block of seven developers within APPA (an eighth, Winergy, has since expressed intention to join) but has also attracted wind companies other than developers -- one of PEE's main goals. The new members are turbine manufacturer Made, bank La Caixa and insurance firm, Unibrock.

Similarly, Galindez says PEE aims to establish itself as the link between Spain's regional wind power associations and the external parties. Already the wind association for Castile-La Mancha region, Aprecam, has signed up and PEE expects its counterpart in Castile and León, Apecyl, to follow suit soon.

PEE studies of administrative processing aim at streamlining and unifying procedures in a country where regional governments reign over vastly differing wind development regulatory policies. "We're not out to change any policy, but to offer regional administrations our combined experience throughout different regions in order to help ease the project processing burden. We also aim to make the regional administrations more sensitive to sector needs and realities," says Galindez.

So far PEE's only achievements have been to define an agenda and, on the basis of this, to attract new members into consolidated wind lobbying. Its credibility now depends on coming up soon with increasingly convincing answers to current and future wind sector challenges. These answers will have to please not only wind sector players but also the parties that sway power and influence over it.

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