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Renewable Energy in Spain: Too Many Proposals, Too Little Time

Efforts to promote the utilization of renewable energy in Spain have been ongoing. This is in line with the plan initiated by the government in 2018. At that time, government officials aimed to obtain as much as 75% of the country’s electricity from sources considered as renewable energy by 2030. This is planned to increase to 100% by 2050. 

A royal decree was implemented before 2021 ended. This involved creating a conducive landscape for the use of electric vehicles and renewable energy in Spain. 

With this, more and more companies are applying for permits so that they can create wind farms and solar parks. But, too much of anything proves to be disadvantageous at times. The volume of proposals is greater than the capacity of the government to evaluate them. Because of this, the government encourages companies to withdraw their proposals if they deem them insufficient to get past the environmental evaluation.

The estimated amount of renewable energy in Spain that can be provided by all the proposals combined is 150,000 megawatts. This is much more than the goal of the country, which is to utilize 60,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2030. 

The influx of proposals for renewable energy in Spain is delaying the process and efforts of the government to achieve their goal. With more proposals to review, conducting environmental assessments is pushed back. This can negatively affect the proposals that are more likely to be approved since they may not be given the green light to proceed by the time the deadline comes. 

Deadlines for the process have already been extended so that the involved institutions can cope with the number of proposals. More time was given to the conduct of the environmental assessment since this step is where most of the delays occur. 

However, the process of evaluating the proposals that come in still remains inefficient. The sequence of evaluation does not depend on the likelihood of the proposal getting approved. Rather, involved authorities are required to conduct their evaluations as they come. This means that whoever submits proposals first will be evaluated first, even if the proposals have a high possibility of getting rejected along the way. 

The head of Quality and Environmental Assessment at Spain’s Ecological Transition Ministry, Ismael Aznar, shares that: “the administration cannot just rule out projects because it wants to – it has to explain the reasons. This means it must follow a process and have a complete record: it has to analyze the project, the environmental impact study and even the public information that comes via open consultation processes”

The whole process of evaluating a proposal is time-consuming. This is especially true for those who intend to use long electricity lines, as the path they will take must be carefully studied.

In assessing any given proposal, the environmental impact it has remains one of the typical reasons for its rejection by the Ecological Transition Ministry. The utilization of long power lines, their negative effect on birdlife, and the consequences for protected areas are carefully assessed and, when found unsuitable, they are rejected.

To encourage companies to withdraw proposals that are highly likely to be rejected, the government implemented safeguards for them. Companies who decide not to proceed with their application before January 23 can get the 40,000 euros per megawatt they invested in the application process. 

Companies that choose to proceed with the application process but fail to get past the standard review step will not be given the same privilege of getting their investment back.

Some Benefits of Renewable Energy in Spain

Renewable energy in spain

The promotion of renewable energy in Spain creates more employment opportunities for its citizens. In 2018, the government shut down coal mines. However, employees in the industry were not left on their own. These employees were given the necessary training so that they could develop their skills and become more equipped to handle the responsibilities in the solar and wind power industries.

2019 proved to be more positive, with around 90,000 jobs created due to the transition to the utilization of renewable energy in Spain. 

The growth of the sector is also advantageous during this COVID-19 pandemic.  The different restrictions previously and currently in place have negatively affected the economic growth of the country. Various sectors have been limited from operating fully and, therefore, maximizing their income. In support of renewable energy, the government decided to allot 181 million euros in the sector to open more jobs and make renewable energy more financially accessible.  

The use of renewable energy is also beneficial for its users. Over the years since its promotion, prices for services for renewable energy have been decreasing. It is also more cost-effective with continued use because such resources are sustainable and efficient in producing energy. Around 210 euros every year can be saved by households who decide to use renewable energy instead of coal-powered energy. 

With more affordable options for citizens, the use of renewable energy is also expected to alleviate energy poverty in Spain. 

The increased support from the political and business sectors for renewable energy is a welcome shift as it provides many benefits locally and internationally. However, administrative processes still need to be adjusted so that authorities can cope with the interest that companies have shown.

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