Spain sets record for wind power production
Yesterday, we put Germany's performance into perspective by pointing out how much further along Denmark is. It is also worth mentioning that Spain is close to keeping up with Denmark in terms of the share of wind power in total electricity supply, as the Spanish Wind Energy Association announced this week.
Since the beginning of November, wind power has been the largest source of electricity within Spain – ahead of even nuclear and coal power – according to the Spanish wind power association's blog. While the country got around a sixth of its electricity from wind turbines in 2011, the figure now regularly reaches 25 percent, putting wind power production in Spain close to the Danish average of 30 percent for 2012.
This high level of renewable power – keep in mind that Spain also has nearly 5 percent solar, which also puts it near the top just behind Germany – should be kept in mind when we read about the Spanish withdrawing support for renewables. As Reuters explained last week, Spain is indeed looking for ways to pay down the debt accrued as a result of investments in renewables.
The "tariff deficit" is currently reported at 28 billion euros in costs related to renewable power but never passed on to ratepayers (I explained the dilemma back in 2009 here). Essentially, the Spanish government wanted to protect ratepayers from high power prices, so it imposed an artificial limit. The remaining costs were then passed on as debt to the government, which now has to be (probably with interest) in some form. Rather than simply charge higher taxes, the government has implemented a number of changes that lowered – sometimes retroactively – returns for investors in renewables. The new changes are also expected to worsen the investment environment in the country.
Nonetheless, the Spanish now clearly get far more than 20 percent of their power from wind and solar, putting the Spanish in an elite group of global leaders. Germany does not even get 15 percent of its power from wind and solar yet, and the figures for non-hydro renewable power in China and the US are even worse. Over at Inside Climate News, a recent estimate put the figure at 2.3 percent for China and five percent for the US.
Clearly, the Spanish are having budgetary problems, and they are not limited to renewables. But the Spanish deserve to be heralded for going as far as they have in such a short time. (Craig Morris)