A big boost to the national economy

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Critics of the Spanish wind power industry will find it harder to argue that the sector burdens the national economy after findings that the wind industry contributed EUR 3.3 billion to GDP in 2007, several times the EUR 991 million in purchase price subsidies and other support paid to wind power over the year.

The total, which includes direct contributions to GDP of EUR 1.9 billion and an indirect bonus of EUR 1.3 billion, represented 0.35% of GDP, reports consultant firm Deloitte, commissioned by Spanish wind group Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE) to carry out a macro-economic study. "You could hardly paint a rosier bill of health," says AEE's José Donoso.

Wind accounted for a little less than 7% of the contribution to GDP from Spain's entire energy sector, up from 5.4% in 2003. Donoso says wind provided 10% of Spanish electricity in 2007 and "probably 11.1% in 2008." He calls wind farms a boon to the 840 rural areas in which they are located.

According to Deloitte, wind industry exports in 2007 amounted to EUR 2.6 billion, compared to EUR 1.6 billion in imports, resulting in a trade surplus of EUR 947 million, which makes up 49% of the sector's direct contribution to GDP. That activity provided jobs for 20,781 people in the industry and indirectly employed 16,949 outside it.

Wind project development and operation made the biggest economic contribution, generating EUR 572 million, while turbine factories followed with EUR 543.5 million. Component manufacturers produced EUR 456.6 million and service companies EUR 360.9 million. Deloitte says wind companies, present in all 17 autonomous regions of Spain, have provided jobs that help alleviate rural depopulation.

Deloitte forecasts that by 2010, wind power will contribute EUR 4.5 billion to Spain's GDP and EUR 5.5 billion in 2012. It bases its prognosis on the country's target of 20 GW of wind capacity in 2010 and 29 GW in 2016. The study adds that in 2007 wind power production displaced 13,500 GWh from coal plant, 12,500 GWh from combined cycle gas plant and 1750 GWh from other fossil fuel plant for a combined avoidance of 18 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. At a reference price for emission rights of EUR 20 a tonne, that saved the electricity system EUR 360 million. Deloitte adds wind power also saved Spain more than EUR 1 billion in fossil fuel imports.

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