The Spanish government’s recent track record on supporting renewable energy is far from stellar. Although the country actually has some of the highest amounts of wind and solar power installed in Europe, much of this was added before 2010, before current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came to power…
Now, his PP party is not necessarily averse to clean energy per se, but rather the previous incentive schemes put in place for solar power in particular were so generous that, put simply, the government could no longer justify supporting it in the same manner.
For a while, a Spanish homeowner or business owner who installed solar panels on their rooftop, or indeed power plant operator who built and owned a solar farm, was rewarded with a decent feed-in tariff that gave them a certain amount of euros in cash for every kilowatt of electricity they supplied to the grid.
But by 2011, it was felt by government that the popularity of the scheme – Spain had installed more than eight gigawatts of solar at that stage – was too strong, and that it was drawing too much government money at a time that the recession was starting to bite.
Fast forward to 2017 and, bar the introduction of the ill-advised ‘sun tax’, Spain is ready once more to embrace clean energy. And with good reason. The southern tip of the country, as anyone who has tried to sit at a beachside bar in Tarifa (Cádiz) knows, is one of Europe’s windiest regions, and wind power – both onshore and offshore – is a viable and affordable source of energy for Spain.
Add to the fact that nearly all of the country ranks among the regions of Europe with the highest levels of sunshine and it is obvious that Spain should become a hotbed for solar power once more.
Well, on May 17 that hope will become a reality as Spain’s Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda holds a renewable energy auction for three gigawatts of clean power. This means that would-be companies eager to build solar or wind farms can ‘bid’ for large amounts of capacity. Winning bidders will be those that can offer the most competitive price of power per megawatt-hour, and chosen by the Spanish Electricity Market Operator (OMIE).
This auction will attract vast amounts of interest from both Spanish and international companies, experts believe, with German, Chinese, South American and USA firms all likely to join their Spanish counterparts in trying to secure contracts.
This time next year, Spain will be home to vastly more quantities of wind and solar power, built at prices cheaper than coal. Not only should this translate into lower bills for the average consumer, but it will also make Spain’s air cleaner, and its energy future much more secure.