Broad welcome of new Spanish goals -- Government strategy increases wind target by 7000 MW

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Despite some key reservations, the Spanish wind industry has broadly welcomed the government's long awaited publication of a new EUR 23.6 billion national strategy for renewable energy, the Plan de Energías Renovables 2005-2010 (PER). PER makes official a target for wind power to provide 20 GW of installed generating capacity by 2010, replacing the previous target of 13 GW by 2011.

While the new target has been long anticipated, "The certainty provided by the rubberstamp is a huge sector boost," says Antonio Martínez of Spanish turbine manufacturer Ecotècnia.

PER, authored by the industry ministry, focuses on wind as Spain's most successful renewable energy source. While wind's target is boosted by a massive 7000 MW, the biomass target moves from 344 MW to 2000 MW, and photovoltaics and high-temperature solar thermal generation rises from 37 MW to 900 MW, with an extra 800 MW of small hydro generation expected. Reaching the targets will cost Spanish consumers EUR 4.96 billion, says the industry ministry, or an extra 0.6% on their electricity bills over the period.

The government hopes PER will boost wind development sufficiently to allow it to make up ground lost by renewables in the early stages of the previous national strategy for this decade, the Plan de Fomento de Energías Renovables. Renewable energy's contribution to Spain's overall energy mix fell from around 20% in 1997 to 13% in 2002, even though the 5% annual average growth of renewables electricity generation was far greater than the 1.2% the plan had allowed for.

Since 2003, renewables, especially wind, have regained some ground thanks in part to the introduction of a stable market framework for renewables. But if Spain is to meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15% on 1990 levels the rate of renewables development has to increase. In 2004, CO2 emissions were an alarming 40% over 1990 levels.

Slashing emissions

The cut and thrust of PER is to slash Spain's soaring CO2 emissions by 32.5 million tonnes and reduce the country's 80% dependency on energy imports. To achieve this, government wants renewables to provide 12.1% of total energy demand and 30.3% of electricity demand by 2010, a hair's breadth above EU objectives, respectively, 12% and 29.4%.

An indication of how seriously Spain views its CO2 reduction commitment came last month when the regional government of Valencia temporarily closed three factories for exceeding their allocated allowance for carbon emissions, set at the beginning of the year under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Central government hailed the closures as the first of their kind in Europe.

Industry welcome

Spain's wind major wind plant operators have welcomed the plan. Utility Iberdrola, arguably the world's largest wind operator, says the objectives are "sensible and achievable." It has not altered its own 5500 MW renewables target for 2008, having already anticipated the government's long expected 20 GW goal. Iberdrola rival Acciona, an independent power producer with 1150 MW of operating wind capacity after its purchase of Energía Hidroeléctrica de Navarra early this year, has kept its forecast for annual growth unchanged at 30%-35% up to 2010. More cautiously, the country's top utility, Endesa, waited for PER's official publication before announcing its intention to up its wind capacity from just over 1000 MW to nearly 4000 MW by 2009 (page 36).

Grid concerns

Alberto Ceña of Spain's national wind association, Asociación Eólica Empresarial (AEE), describes PER as "enormously positive," but points to a number of grey areas, starting with the lack of a maximum spot-penetration figure for wind. "PER tells us what's installable by 2010 but not the maximum capacity that can be fed into the system at a time," he says.

Grid concerns are recognised by PER. It calls for system operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE) to continue its efforts to establish the maximum penetration level for wind while still maintaining security of supply. It also instructs REE to find ways of accommodating more wind power on its network in future. REE has ongoing studies into wind output forecasting and the extent to which wind plant can be called on to contribute to grid stability. "All this opens the door to the possibility of an even higher target in the future," says Martínez.

Regional tension

Exactly where all the new wind capacity is to be built may become an issue. PER's breakdown of how much capacity is expected to be installed in each region is a potential bone of contention.

The four big wind regions of Galicia, Castile and León, Castile-La Mancha and Andalucia already have their own individual targets, all of which are in excess of 4000 MW. The highest regional capacity expected by PER, however, is 3400 MW in Galicia, while for Andalucia, a target of 2200 MW has been suggested.

PER says the breakdown is a "rough estimate" and "in no way binding or restrictive," but concern is already being expressed. The 2200 MW estimated for Andalucia "can only be seen as a mistake," says Mariano Barroso from Andalucian wind association Aprean. "The 2002 infrastructure plan had us down for around 4000 MW by 2010. We can't aim lower," he says. Moreover, since the 2002 plan, Andalucia's regional government has fixed agreements with REE to accommodate over 3500 MW of new wind capacity.

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