Wind industry breathes easy

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Spain's wind industry is sighing with relief in the wake of the general election on March 19, which saw the incumbent Partido Socialista Obrera Española (PSOE) victorious over its main opposition, Partido Popular (PP). PSOE gave renewables a high profile in its election campaign, notably in television debates where party leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero emphasised the employment benefits of Spain's leading position on the wind and solar world stage. PSOE has promised to set a wind target for 29 GW by 2016 in this year's energy infrastructure plan.

A renewed sense of confidence is evident across the wind sector, with niggling doubts about the future put to bed. The industry had been unclear about the level of support it would get from PP, which left mention of renewables largely to its campaign literature. On one of the few occasions the sector was alluded to, PP's second in command, Manuel Pizarro, slammed the government for "subsidising the most expensive energy technologies," which he blamed for exacerbating rising electricity costs. The election result also quashes hopes among some in the PP of opening a new debate to end Spain's 25-year moratorium on nuclear power construction.

With PSOE's Zapatero back as prime minister for the next four years, Spain's wind market looks secure. The planned 29 GW wind target, however, is contingent on improving the Spanish electricity system's interconnection with France, says PSOE. With a capacity of just 3000 MW, Spain is limited in it ability to offload excess wind power on its neighbour, should the need arise, or call on extra supplies if demand in Spain should exceed generation. Just days after the election, Zapatero met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy to secure an agreement on expanding interconnection capacity between the two countries.

Share prices in Spain's leading wind companies rose in the immediate aftermath of the election results. Iberdrola saw its price rise 2.62% on the Ibex 35 prime shares index, compared with a 0.15% fall in the broader market, the day after the election. Turbine manufacturer Gamesa's share price saw similar movement.

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