The conference rooms also revealed a country that has gained a firm grasp of the real challenges of today: industry consolidation, grid saturation, fixed wind tariffs (or not), wind output forecasting, and expansion into developing countries. Spain showed itself to have a head start in some of these fields. Progress in market consolidation was underlined on the second day as delegates awoke to discover that Italian utility ENEL had bought 80% of the renewables division of Spanish utility Unión Fenosa (page 25).
And consolidation was a strong theme at the conference's star event in which nine CEOs of the world's top wind manufacturers presented their vision for the future. Gamesa's Iñaki López Gandasegui was the only company boss to state that it was his intention to topple Vestas from its position as number one in world turbine sales. Gamesa is Spain's largest turbine maker, a key project developer and former partner of Vestas.
Gandasegui's words were not spoken lightly. Delegates arrived in Madrid in the wake of Gamesa's purchase of Spain's second manufacturer, Made Tecnologías, which has put up 12% of the country's installed capacity. Gamesa is behind 53.4%. Seriousness aside, delegates erupted in spontaneous laughter when Gandasegui stated that the Made purchase was not an attempt "to close the door on our friends and rivals at Vestas" but was, rather, "another opportunity to increase business volume." Vestas, which announced earlier this year its intentions to enter the Spanish market, had been tipped as hot favourite to buy Made prior to Gamesa's bid -- and is still looking to secure a foothold in Spain. "Priority had been acquisition but it now seems likely we will put up our own facility," said Vestas boss Svend Sigaard.
NEG Micon CEO, Torben Bjerre-Madsen, eulogised the Spanish market as one of the global industry's driving forces. Later he revealed admiration for Gamesa's approach as a combined developer-manufacturer, which NEG Micon has emulated, particularly with its 235 MW La Muela plant in Zaragoza. Indeed, Bjerre-Madsen confirmed that Spain is NEG Micon's biggest area of developing activity and in a reference to main rival Vestas, commented: "Sigaard says he does not integrate developing with manufacturing; therefore Vestas does no business in Spain. As simple as that."
Bjerre-Madsen's outspokenness on Vestas may have derived from the euphoria of having just done business himself. He confirmed that NEG Micon had sealed a deal to supply ten 1.65 MW machines to a development in Andalucia -- the developer is tipped to be Shell, though this is unconfirmed. "This is our first megawatt turbine deal in Spain," said Bjerre-Madsen. NEG Micon later announced further orders for 33, 750 kW turbines and 48, 900 kW units for delivery in Aragon and Galicia this year and next. No other manufacturer claimed to have sealed contracts, though all described EWEC as a major business opportunity. "We've made very useful foreign contacts, especially with the large far-eastern presence from countries like Japan, Korea and China," said Antoni Martínez of Spanish Ecotècnia.
Back in the conference rooms, Spanish politics took some of the wind out of the event's sails. Failing to turn up were the EU energy commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, and Spain's economy minister, Rodrigo Rato. Rato's substitute, state energy secretary Jose Folgado, disappointed by taking up valuable time saying nothing new. He had been expected to give an indication of the energy department's proposal for a new feed-in tariff mechanism. Pressed on the issue, Folgado later merely confirmed the new tariff model would remain "essentially the same with a greater degree of predictability."
Despite the assurances, the central government's lack of interest and involvement in the event could be a sign of flagging commitment. Such fears were exacerbated when Javier Peón of the all-influential electricity board, Comisión Nacional de la Energía, said that if Spain was to reach its 13,000 MW wind target, 13,000 MW of nuclear plant would have to go up as a wheeling reserve to guarantee electricity supplies. The statement followed a series of presentations of Spanish institutional and private sector efforts to improve forecasts of production from wind plant and generation quality. Peón's dismissal of the efforts was a hard blow.