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Chinese Dominance in Solar Energy

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At the beginning of 21st century, the need for change in everyday lifestyle and industrial production has created a space for the development of technologies that will sufficiently serve humanity but that will be environmentally friendly. In this sense, we witnessed an expansion of products that supported sustainable energy such as solar panels, wind turbines, and eco-fuels that have become popular products all over the world. Naturally, in the world after the end of the Cold War, the USA had a monopoly over these trade areas. Companies such as First Solar and Sunpower have dominated the market when German and Japanese companies joined the race(Awatea, Ajith, & Ajwani-Ramchandani, 2018, str. 181).                

In the most recent times, the evident expansion of the Chinese dominance in economy and technology, present throughout in the trade war with the USA, has transcended into the sphere of renewable energy where Chinese company JinkoSolar holds the number one position in manufacturing. Because this topic has somehow stayed in the shadow of more popular conflict and competition in the sphere of technology, solar power, and production of solar panels have not been noted as a possible feature of expansion tactic China has been implementing. Therefore my research question is related to the factors that created the ground for Chinese companies to dominate the solar panel market. The arguments used in the paper include several instances correlated with the influence that the Chinese government had in special policies to assure companies’ competitiveness, their overall economic strategy, domestic factors that pushed the development of this field, and ideological standpoint for governmental support. In the end, I conclude with the claim that the Chinese strategy can have significance in the dominance of the European market in the same way it dominates the South Asian region.

From rural-oriented solar programs to world champion

Before the 1990s, the Chinese companies have not been very active in solar power industry. Because of the shift in world agenda and the excessive need for the affordable workforce and technology in this area, China started to develop industrial capacities for it. When it comes to the beginnings of Chinese involvement in solar power, the primary focus was the know-how and skilled labour that was sent to other countries. This eventually resulted in China starting companies that deal with solar power and inviting others to move to China, where they could found cheap, skilled labour but instead of paying taxes, they received tax credits. This, combined with expertise gained in the work of German companies in this field helped the growing trend of Chinese enterprises, and soon the production of solar panels exceeded the demand of the domestic solar power market. Today in the top 10 of the companies that deal with solar panels and solar energy, there are 4 Chinese companies, among which the first place is held by Chinese JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. Several factors can be distinguished which impacted this dominance in solar energy industry. Besides the demand created by other countries and their extensive search for cheaper alternatives to the USA monopoly in this area, the Chinese developing economy found the reasons to create a more beneficial domestic atmosphere for the development of solar power and green energy. Overall narratives in world affairs that started to focus more on climate change and renewable energy resulted in several international agreements extensively supported by most states. This was recognized by China, which was at the same time starting to reshape its international position and to build preconditions for becoming the global hegemon. Under the last two Chinese “5 year-plan“,a strategical need was created by the local governments from rural and underdeveloped areas to create solar power manufacturing facilities precisely since they had space and labour force to develop this industry.    

These kinds of trade incentives can be connected to another factor that influenced the development of the solar power sector – domestic pollution. The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) aimed to increase the consumption of renewable energy sources on the domestic market to fight this problem and to point out the quality of Chinese companies and the countries progress in environmental protection. Total investment in treating environmental pollution increased by 15% annually and environmental investment reached 1.33% of the GDP by 2009, which further continued in the 12th plan resulting in government establishing a credit rating system for enterprises’ environmental behaviours, building a green rating system in banks, and exploring mechanisms for earmarked funds for national ecological compensation. As a result, the Chinese domestic market has been growing consistently ever since (Zhang & He, 2013) which also impacted the changing of the image of China has as a polluted country. The factor that also influences the growing solar power manufacturing industry of China and its dominance in the world is the momentum in which the revolution happened – the 2008 economic crisis when the Chinese government recognized the growing need for sustainable technology and its development, and which it supported by extensive policies(Awatea, Ajith, & Ajwani-Ramchandani, 2018)that helped preserve these companies on the market. Talking about the norms that the Chinese government implemented, the reasoning behind them could be seen as the combination of economic benefits as well as political ones.Thanks to the recognition of the Chinese Communist Party, solar power companies such as JinkoSolar become one of the most valued corporations that exported Chinese solar power products. Here lies the most important factor that pushed Chinese companies to dominate – governmental involvement and policy push for the companies to be more competitive and which save them from the economic crisis.

These policies have been deemed problematic by the European Union and the USA for several years, which eventually lead to the dispute that was resolved in 2013. Chinese government instituted several consumption policies to increase competitiveness with the USA manufacturers and to expand over the domestic market. Policies such as feed-in-tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, large scale solar power generation projects, easier grid connection, and set targets for cumulative installed capacity(Zhang & He, 2013) created problems for the EU firms to be competitive against the Chinese ones which lead to imposed tariffs terminated by mentioned dispute settlement. Even though tariffs were imposed, China managed to surpass the German production by 2015 as well as the USA`s because of its enormous capacities and a developed market for its products. China become the leader in the trade of solar energy and in establishing its technology all over the world, while managing to become pioneer in patents related to solar power(Awatea, Ajith, & Ajwani-Ramchandani, 2018, str. 184-185).

Chinese dominance in the field of renewable energy come at the same time as the USA withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. This opened up new opportunity for China to become more engaged in the policies related to environment within international organizations and become a way of a „posterboy “for others to see. This comes as no surprise because green policies have a big say in developing countries in Africa or member state of the European Union which is precisely where China is trying to expand its presence. On the other note JinkoSolar and other corporations have created some controversy on being highly involved with the Chinese Government which slowed their progress in these regions, but then again not in the same volumeas in the case of Huawei in IT sector. Meanwhile, Chinese strategy behind it may be the same – spreading its presence and creating soft power.

In line with this, the factor that explains the impact of China is related to alignment of its policies on production as well as target areas with the European Union and their Green New Deal. A couple of years ago, as mentioned, the European Union had a series of tariffs set for China due to state policies that make the Chinese solar panels more competitive on the market, but as time passes it is more than evident that JinkoSolar and similar companies dominates this area both in innovation and outreach, leaving behind the US and German companies. These tariffs have been lifted due to more beneficial products that China had to offer in this field, which can help the EU`s new target in renewable energy. This is more than expected having in mind that China supplies more than 50% of South Asian countries’ needs, and was already at around 20% of supplying European market in 2014 which is by now more than two times multiplied.

 Even though the Green Deal itself focuses more on wind energy which is pioneered in the EU member states, China has more impact the solar power area since it has better competitiveness rate due to low prices and low greenhouse gas emissions. Taking a look at a specific company heavily subsidized by the Chinese government as JinkoSolar, their presence in Europe has been seen extensive which reflects on the overall presence of China in the European market in several fields. Argument for this is the fact that JinkoSolar has a lead the biggest up-to-date renewable energy project -the Kozani project built in Greece which is interpreted as a „benchmark“for green energy in Europe. In essence quality of the production has not been put in question due to several world-famous projects completed by the firm which speak for its quality such as the plant Noor Abu Dhabi which will be the largest in the world when completed.

This kind of economic influence in trade and manufacturing can be compared to the impact that Chinese production of toys had at the beginning of the century and which is significantly correlated to the soft power China. As presented in Xi Jinping „ Chinese dream“speech, China has a tendency to spread its influence in international arena for several decades now. We have been aware that Chinese dominance in the South Asian region is not challenged but to fulfil its aspirations, the influence must be spread in both Africa and Europe and it must transcend into the soft power more than in economic one. The Green New Deal and overall increasing significance of green economy and renewable energy can be used as a part of Chinese tactics. Together with this, the engagement of the government in the economy and private corporations can have an immense impact on the future position of China as a great power.                    

What is left to conclude is that in the essence of the Chinese presence and dominance over solar power production and solar panel manufacturing lays a combination of factors. Solar power and renewable energy have had a peak in the years after the 2000s which China saw as an economic opportunity where it could invest and develop the industry based on domestic resources. Because manufacturing soon satisfied domestic incentives, and the global popularity of these products hit its peak, China started to export its knowledge as well as products on the global market, soon becoming absolute dominant over the Asian region. Having the quality but also seeing that the window of opportunity opened, China used its chance to propagate its production once again.   

As an addition, this period of development of green energy and its industry overlaps with the shift China had in its policy towards the world and its intention to become a new global superpower, especially in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Politically, China has started to be involved in different international agreements connected to the environment which together with the USA withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and the European fight for Green New Deal can be interpreted as the set of fortunate events presenting China as pioneer in environmentally friendly future. All this was seen in a set of policies and subsidies created by the Chinese government to support companies such as JinkoSolar which is only one of multiple examples of successful solar power companies originating from China, while also it presents an example how governmental interests can have a significant say in economic sphere. This may be used as an opportunity to spread both economic and soft power. The attitude of the Chinese government in this sphere may be interpreted as one of the tactics to spread the idea of Chinese world hegemony in Europe, now that the USA has weakened its position. JinkoSolar and its success is a product of the mentioned factors, but moreover the product of aspiration of Chinese Government that managed to put this industry into their framework set for the future.

Mina Medjedovic is a young researcher with a BSc in International relations and who is currently in the Master's program in the same field at the Corvinus University of Budapest. She is focusing on China and its foreign policy as well as the European Union and Western Balkan integration.

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Israeli competition against Egypt in the energy and natural gas sector

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Since the success of the (June 30th revolution and the departure of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt), then the establishment of the (new republic in Egypt), then to the changes brought about by the policy of building and construction, and then the international conferences that the Egyptian leadership is keen to attend or host, such as: youth and climate conferences, all of these prominent activities have enhanced the volume of successes and the historical changes achieved by the Egyptian state.  President “El-Sisi” and the military institution, led the Egyptian masses to make a historic leap from wealth to power, which was inaugurated with the establishment of the (New Administrative Capital) with the great Chinese support and investments. We can here, in brief, (linking and finding a logical relationship between building the new republic in Egypt and the Chinese role in Cairo projects, and deliberately not inviting Egypt and countries in the region interested in building to the conference of American democracies), through:

  President (Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi) described all the Egyptian state’s moves in the direction of total and comprehensive development for all sectors in recent years by declaring a new republic and the birth of a new state with the opening of the new administrative capital in Cairo.  According to the content of President “El-Sisi’s words”, in which he described the new projects that Egypt will open during the coming period, confirming that:

 “The new administrative capital is an announcement of the new republic after a difficult period that Egypt passed through”

  The political leadership in Egypt has also been interested in establishing new cities, known as: (the fourth generation cities), which are considered the turning point in the real estate sector in Egypt, and there are about 20 cities, and it is expected to accommodate about 30 million people. Such as:

  (The New Administrative Capital, New Alamein, Galala, New Mansourieh, New Ismailia, West Assiut, East Port Said, West Qena)

  The (new administrative capital) comes at the top of the urban development that Egypt is currently witnessing with various Chinese and international investments, as this capital will be the headquarters of the state’s strategic leadership center, and a leading political, cultural and economic center for the Middle East and North Africa, on new foundations, including what it includes from advanced international standards by establishing (City of Finance and Business), as a center serving Greater Cairo and the three governorates of the (Suez Canal, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez), and it will be one of the largest centers in the Middle East and the region, in order to serve the state’s orientation seeking to (support the future of its influence in the region to form a pillar for its economic projects in the Mediterranean and securing navigation in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal).

  We find here that (the entry of various Chinese investments in the new administrative capital and the Suez Canal) and others, is one of the main analytical reasons from which, it is understood (the increase in the intensity of competition and international polarization between the United States of America, China and Russia in Egypt and all the countries of the region), which makes all questions about the capabilities of those who support it from other parties, and this is the case now.

    Additionally, we can identify the implications of the (regional competition and American-Israeli polarization in the face of Egypt in the energy sector and the discovery of a natural gas field in the eastern Mediterranean), the signing of the (Eastern Mediterranean Agreement) between “Egypt, Greece, Cyprus”, and the entry of the Israeli side as a competitor in the energy and natural gas projects of Egypt, was one of the main reasons for excluding Egypt from the American invitation to attend the democracy summit, for reasons (related to the regional competition between Israel against Cairo in the energy sector and natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean region).

   With the support of the United States of America to its Israeli ally in confronting and supporting (the energy sector in Egypt and its unprecedented achievements and the entry of Israel as a competitor), in recent years, this has led to (changing the entire energy landscape, in favor of Egypt, and eliminating the large gap between demand and supply), which Washington considered “Egypt is one of the top ten countries in the world that possesses large reserves of natural gas in deep waters”. This is according to the estimates of the well-known US “Global data energy” website.

  Perhaps one of the most things that irritated the Israeli side about Egypt is the Egyptian achievements in achieving self-sufficiency in electricity and exporting it abroad, and the (solar power generation project in Benban, Aswan Governorate), which won the annual award distinguished as the best project from the “World Bank” in 2019, at the world level, and Egypt’s success in (transforming into a regional energy center in the face of Israel), this was so enough for Israel to play a negative role in questioning the successes of the Egyptian state, led by President “El-Sisi”, and one of the easiest of which is (the entrance to democracy).

   My analysis of the matter goes, that the attention of the whole world towards the (annual youth conferences) called by President “El-Sisi”, and his keenness to host (conferences for Egyptian and international youth to lay the foundations for world peace), was the main reason behind “the Israeli anger at their inability to host and launching similar conferences for youth internationally and directing the world’s youth towards Cairo”, through President “El-Sisi” achieving remarkable results and creating a new situation in the Egyptian state for young people at all levels. So, we can analyze that (The Conference of American Democracies, as a magnet for young people around the world who are seeking democracy). According to the American promotion of this to support the Israeli side as the only democratic state in the region.

   Accordingly, we can understand the reality of the achievements of the Egyptian state in recent years, and the inauguration of (the era of the new republic), and considering it as a new era witnessed by Egypt with all its sectors and categories and its transformation into a global economic and investment center, after successive achievements, reforms and national projects, all of which will make Egypt a strong country capable of competing in the global economy and more influential in its regional environment, and this is the long-term reason, which many may not have noticed about (the Israeli role and the US support for it in promoting Israel as a single and unique democratic state in the Middle East and the region).

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Is energy transition the answer to Africa’s Socio-Economic Development?

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The African Union Commission (AUC) through the African Energy Commission (AFREC) hosted a high-level online side event at the COP26, held under the theme: “Opportunities and Challenges for African Energy Transition: What will it take for Africa to reach net-zero emissions’’?

The meeting called for bold measures related to opportunities and challenges facing Africa, to accelerate actions towards the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The meeting aimed at fully unlocking Africa’s position on climate adaptation, to expand modern energy access, reduce poverty and create jobs, whilst contributing to the global objectives of circumventing the lock-in of carbon into future development on the continent.

As impacts of climate change continue to worsen and pose significant threats to socio-economic development globally, speakers across governments, African Union Commission, African Development Bank, United Nations, leading policy influencers and private sectors deliberated through a virtual forum, co-organised by the African Development Bank (AFDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD).

In her keynote address, H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission underscored that it is in the best interest of Africa to join global efforts, to transition towards Net-Zero emissions, in order to mitigate future impacts of climate change on the continent and also reduce the costs of adaptation.

‘‘The availability of abundant renewable energy resources on the continent such as hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and bio-energy can transform Africa’s energy sector to modern and sustainable energy through both grid and off-grid systems. These resources offer opportunities to accelerate clean energy access on the continent through energy transition and especially factoring natural gas as an energy transition fuel for power and clean cooking’’, She stressed.

Dr. Abou-Zeid also emphasized that Africa’s political will and commitment is highly significant to accelerate the uptake of renewable energy as evidenced by the targets within countries national plans reflected in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to achieve climate and development ambitions. ‘‘COP26 should seek to stimulate concrete actions to address the huge financing gap to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050’’, she further stressed.

Though Africa contributes about 3.6% of the global CO2 emission, there is evidence that climate change impacts on Africa are more severe, bearing in mind that access to affordable clean energy remain one of the biggest challenges facing the continent. Thus, addressing persistent barriers to energy development on the continent through technical, financial, markets, policy and regulatory framework is essential.

H.E Dr Gerd Muller, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany called for joint forces amongst nations to act now on issues of climate change and decarbonisation. He said that moving to renewable energy will create jobs and many other opportunities, which will make Africa a green continent. “Decarbonisation is necessary because the energy sector is the source of more than two thirds of all CO2 emissions’’ he emphasised.  Expressing Germany’s commitment to work with Africa in her energy transition ambitions, he hailed the proposed AU-EU Green Energy Initiative as an appropriate instrument for facilitating a bi-continental approach.

H.E. Mr. Benatou ZIANE, Minister of Energy Transition and Renewable Energy of Algeria noted in a statement read on his behalf by Mr CHABANE Merouane, Permanent Secretary, that Africa needs to diversify its energy sources and liberate itself from the dependency of hydropower, to guarantee energy security for the future generations for the development of an economy which is based on a model that is aligned with socio-economic needs, promote equality, employment creation and responds to Africa’s energy challenges. “Algeria has already started working on a policy framework for a new energy model, to balance a local energy mix which is favourable for transition and reducing emission by 2030. We are also working on developing renewable energy by increasing 15 GW by 2035’’ he stressed.  

In their panel discussion H.E Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Energy of Ghana, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, Director Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management of UNECA, Mr. Henry Paul Batchi Baldeh, Director Power System Development at AfDB, and Mr. Mamadou Diakhité, Acting Head of Division for Environmental Sustainability at AUDA-NEPAD highlighted the following:

  • Africa need to be realistic in  choosing  the energy transition pathways which address her unique requirements/circumstances;
  • Enhancing policy, legislation and implementation approaches across national, regional and continental level, to enable a favourable environment for development;
  • Leapfrog into the green development space without ignoring Africa’s infrastructure development and industrialisation ambitions;
  • Develop bankable projects to scale up access to funding and investment;
  • Adopt a mix of energy solutions to address the needs of each country including solutions to high tariffs and accessibility to sustainable energy options;
  • Promote energy efficiency which is necessary for energy transition;
  • Focus on building energy infrastructure and strengthening transmission corridors.

The African Union together with its various development agencies and partners have taken concrete actions by developing continental development programmes and projects such as, improving infrastructure to increase regional power system network by 2040, stimulating and expanding energy markets by providing evidence-based policy advise to member states and ensuring that frameworks and strategies which will enhance technology transfer, technical capacity building at continental and national level are adopted and strengthened. Mobilising adequate financing to accelerate the energy transition agenda in Africa is also one the challenges that the Commission has focused its attention.

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Energy Sector in Spain: Current State and Future Prospects

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Europe’s energy transition is under scrutiny following the region’s soaring electricity prices and the scarcity of fossil fuels. The inadequacy of renewable energies to efficiently respond to these problems has become apparent. Is it necessary to increase the commitment to renewable energies and accelerate the transition? Must Europe re-think the market for emission rights (responsible for 70% of the increase in electricity prices in Spain, according to the Bank of Spain)? Does Europe need to take a step back and stockpile fossil fuels to avoid a future energy crisis?

Spain, like the rest of its European neighbors, has been a victim of the current electricity price crisis and the authorities are still trying to resolve it. To understand it in depth, it is first necessary to understand the state of the energy industry in Spain. This article aims to present a detailed analysis of the most recent developments in the energy field in Spain, the current situation of the sector and its prospects. To this end, it studies fossil fuels, renewable energy, nuclear energy, and ends with an open discussion that seeks to address some of the main issues that will define the future of the energy transition in Spain.

For this analysis, the article takes official documents of the Spanish government as its main basis: the Energy Book 2018 of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030, the Law 7/2021, of May 20, on Climate Change and Energy Transition. It also uses sources like the Red Eléctrica de España website, multiple Spanish press articles and the IEA Spain 2021 Energy Policy Review.

Fossil Fuels

As of 2018, fossil fuels held a major share in the Spanish final energy consumption. Oil (51% of final energy consumption) is mainly imported from Nigeria, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Yet, Spain is a net exporter of oil products and has 9 refineries. Gas (16,4%) is mainly imported from Argelia (51% of imports), followed by Nigeria, France and Qatar. Around half of the supply arrives in LPG. Finally, coal (1.8%) is mostly imported from Russia, Colombia and Australia.

The government expects a 34% reduction of the fossil fuels contribution to primary energy by 2030 (with compared to 2017 data). In final consumption, oil participation is forecasted to drop by 28% between 2015 and 2030. Gas will maintain a stable share, due to its key role in the combined cycle electricity production that will support the development of renewable energy. Finally, coal will become insubstantial, in line with the Decision 2010/787/EU of the Council of the EU and the closing of the coal extraction in Spain.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy made up 7.2% of the total final energy consumption in Spain, a figure that has experienced constant growth since the 1990s, but that has been mostly stable since 2011. In terms of electricity production, data in August 2021 renewable energy accounted for 49% of total production. In addition, a steady growth in thermic renewable energy (1.6% per year, thanks to biomass) and transport renewable energy (thanks to biofuels) should be noted.

Nowadays, the renewable energy sources that have the most installed power capacity in Spain are hydroelectricity and wind power. Wind power and solar PV are expected to experience fast growth, while solar thermoelectric and pumped- storage hydroelectricity will undergo a slower development. Hydroelectricity will remain stable.

The rapid development of renewable energy in Spain is supported by a strong legislative framework. This includes domestic laws as well as the EU policy for Renewable Energy and Climate Change as well as international agreements (the most important of which, the 2015 Paris Agreement, was ratified by Spain in 2017).

Until recently, the main regulatory documents were the 2007 Spanish Strategy on Climate Change and Clean Energy for 2020 and the Renewable Energy Plan 2011-2020, based on EU Directive 2009/28/EC. However, along with the Paris Agreements, Spain is developing a new Legal Framework of 5 documents:

  • Law 7/2021, 20th of May 2021, on Climate Change and Energy Transition: sets the minimum targets for 2030 and 2050.
  • National Integrated Plan of Energy and Climate 2021-2030: published in 2020 the law sets the medium-term prospects and milestones.
  • Strategy for Low Emissions in 2050: has a long-term perspective.
  • Strategy for a Fair Transition: attempts to address the problems of regions of Spain connected to technologies that will be displaced because of the National Integrated Plan of Energy and Climate 2021-2030.
  • National Strategy against Energy Poverty.

This legal basis is supported by a set of institutions: CENER (National Center of Renewable Energies), IDEA (Institute for Diversification and Saving Energy), CIEMAT (Center of Energy, Environment and Technology Research), and CECRE (Center of Control of Renewable Energy). In addition, the government has created the Inter-ministerial Commission of Climate Change and Energy Transition (for coordinating between the different ministries) and has committed to establishing the Commission of Coordination of Climate Change politics (for coordination with the Spanish regions).

The objectives set by the Renewable Energy Plan 2011-2020 for 2020 of at least 20,8% of the final consumption of energy and at least 39% on the total of the electricity consumption coming from renewable energy were achieved. The Law 7/2021, 20th of May 2021, on Climate Change and Energy Transition sets new binding goals: 42% of renewable energy in total final energy consumption in 2030 and 74% of generation of electricity from renewables in 2030.

The National Integrated Plan of Energy and Climate 2021-2030 draws goals and prospects that are in accordance with the new law. For achieving this, it expects the renewable energy power by 2030 to consist of 50 GW of wind power, 39 GW solar PV, 27 GW combined gas cycles, 16 GW hydraulic, 9,5 GW pumped-storage hydroelectricity and 7 GW solar thermoelectric. The plan expects the price of energy generation to drop by 31% by 2030, carbon centrals to be non-competitive, and a governmental investment of 91.765 million euros in renewable energy (80% of which will be allocated to the private sector). It also forecasts that energy dependency will diminish from 73% in 2017 to 61% in 2030.

As for biomass, which accounted for only 4% of the total renewable energy generation in Spain, it is only recently that Spain took the necessary steps to promote this source. The National Integrated Plan on Energy and Climate 2021-2030 comprises the installed energy potential to double between 2015 and 2030, and states that there should be a further normative development.

Nuclear Energy

The share of nuclear energy in the total electricity generation in Spain was 22.20% in 2020, having remained quite stable over the years. It signifies close to 30% of the total clean energy production in Spain.

The main actors of the system are 4 ownership and production companies (Endesa, Iberdrola, EDP and Naturgy), the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, the Nuclear Safety Council and ENUSA and Enresa (national companies in charge of fuel supply and radioactive waste management). On the issue of fuel supply, ENUSA Industrias Avanzadas is the state-company that produces nuclear fuel for Spanish nuclear plants as well as for exports. As there is no uranium mining in Spain, the country imports the enriched uranium, mainly from the United Kingdom (Brexit was addressed in bilateral governmental contacts) and it is ensured by the Euratom Treaty and the European Supply Agency. Regarding the waste management, high radioactivity waste storage has been planned but not yet implemented, and there is one storage center for medium and low radioactivity already.

By the year 2035 Spain plans to close all of its nuclear energy generation plants, in collaboration with EU nuclear countries. Enresa and the nuclear energy companies agreed in 2019 on a calendar to shut down the 4 nuclear plants by 2030 and the resting 3 before 2035. This signifies the consolidation of the process of shutdown of the reactors: it establishes the necessary protocols and puts an end to continuous disagreements between the parties. It also makes sure that nuclear energy continues contribute to the clean energy production goals of 2030.

In line with this, the Law/2021, 20th of May 2021, on Climate Change and Energy Transition states that the government will not give or extend any prospecting and exploitation permits for radioactive minerals and that it will not allow for new nuclear plants to be built. With the closing of the current nuclear plants and the prohibition on new nuclear plants, the future of nuclear energy in Spain is being replaced by renewable energy.

Discussion

This article portrays the directions of Spanish energy policy. It notes a number of features: the decline of coal-produced energy and the mining of coal, the preservation of gas as a supporting resource for renewable energy complications, the abandonment of nuclear energy, and the commitment to renewable energy. While these goals are supported by a planned framework and milestones, factors that initially were not accounted for are impacting their progress.

Up until 2020 Spain was successfully closing down coal mining and coal-fired thermal power plants. By 2018 it had abandoned coal mining, and by the end of 2020 it had closed most of these plants. In 2021, however, Spain has had to increase the electricity generation of the remaining coal powered plants due to the storm Filomena and the shortage of energy sources that it is currently suffering. October is expected to be the month this year during which the highest amount of coal consumption. In addition to that, Spain has been buying Moroccan electricity originating from coal.

The use of gas in combined cycle plants is under scrutiny due to recent developments in the country’s main gas source, Algeria. Algeria has traditionally exported gas to Spain via the Medgaz pipeline (directly to Spain) and GME (via Morocco). In recent weeks Alger closed diplomatic relations with Rabat, and three days later hinted that it would not renew the GME pipeline agreement, which expires on 31 October.

Exclusive use of the Medgaz pipeline (which has recently been extended) would not be sufficient to cover Spanish gas demand. Even so, after bilateral contacts, Algeria guaranteed gas supply to Spain and will probably continue to do so via LNG tankers, which will increase prices.

The Spanish nuclear sector is one of the most important sources of clean electricity for Spain. Yet the infrastructure is too old, and its plants have already received too many extensions on their use. The government, therefore, plans to close down all nuclear plants by 2035. As a result, we can expect a rise in the importance of nuclear waste management can be forecasted, as well as problems with the relocation of the industry workers. However, following the electricity prices exponential rice of this summer, the Spanish government has entered into a conflict with the electricity companies (which own the nuclear plants). In response, the companies have threatened to close all nuclear power plants by 2021. Such an event would significantly damage the Spanish stand on clean energy as well as accelerate the termination of nuclear energy in Spain.

In contrast to coal or nuclear energy, renewable energy sources are the focus of government support. The trend in the sector this century has been one of steady development, which this is expected to continue. While hydropower has historically been predominant, wind and solar are set to see the greatest increase. With this, Spain hopes to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and lower the price of electricity.

However, these plans have been called into question by the events of recent months. On one hand, there has been criticism on the stagnation of the development of solar photovoltaic energy (partly due to the inadequacy of the public administration in processing the requested projects as well as the opposition from local communities in rural areas). While this does not jeopardize Spain’s clean development goals, it does imply a certain slowdown. On the other hand, the current electricity price and energy supply crisis has highlighted the limitations of these developments in Spain, and has strained relations between government and energy companies, which may hinder future progress.

The prospects for energy in Spain are clear: renewable energy. The speed, however, at which Spain plans to reach its targets may be affected by factors not initially foreseen. The need to resort to coal, doubts about gas supply, and the conflict between state and energy companies that has endangered the continuity of nuclear energy in the country are examples of obstacles that need to be overcome. This is not to say that Spain will not achieve its goals, but rather that it is in a transition phase, and that the success of this process depends on how it responds to the problems that arise. This is why the future of energy in Spain, although moving in a very specific direction, is still open.

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Putin: Ukraine Is to Russia What Cuba Was to America in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

In an almost universally ignored speech by Putin, on December 1st (titled “Ceremony for presenting foreign ambassadors’ letters of credence”),...

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