Spanish Renewables Moved by Corruption

During calendar year 2010, the owners of gas-fired power plants were paid 1,008 million euros to compensate for the time they were kept idle. These brand-new plants are needed to ensure security of supply. Spain has built them concurrently with wind farms to provide electricity when there is no wind.

The installed capacity of CCGT (gas plants) in Spain was 2,756 MW in 2002; 12,514 MW in 2005, and 25,000 MW in 2010. This is the part of its green energy policy that the Spanish government doesn’t crow about (here).

So here we are: renewable energies cost the Spanish taxpayers, and soon the consumers (the price of electricity has started to soar in Spain), an additional € 1 billion a year because of the idling of conventional power plants when the wind blows or the sun shines.

Spain finds it difficult to reduce its gaping budget deficit, handicapped as it is by yet another dead-weight of nearly € 7 billion in annual subsidies to renewable energies*. The government has just cut the subsidies to the solar industry by 30% until the next elections (meaning they may reinstate them in 2013) – a small gesture to appease international financial markets.

€ 6,787 million for 2010, including cogeneration and all the perks.

Add to this € 1 billion a year for idling the back-up plants above, that’s close to 8 billion per annum, and growing: in 2013 more windfarms will be built, a lot more. I hope Sarkozy and Merkel realise what they are getting into when they say they will bail out Spain and defend the euro “at all costs”.

The Zapatero government, socialist as it may be, prefers to make cuts in social costs (pensions, civil servants’ salaries, etc.) rather than stop investing in renewable energy: in 2013, for instance, the brakes are to be lifted on wind farm expansion, and 240 projects have been presented for Extremadura alone*.

Extremadura the EU’s most important haven for declining species of large birds: storks (2 species), cranes, great bustards, eagles (5 species), and vultures (3 species). Large birds are especially vulnerable to wind turbines – see this video.

The European Commission, which is in charge of protecting these species, has received several complaints, but they look the other way.

The question is: do Spanish politicians really believe in windpower, or do they subsidise it because of the generous financial contributions they receive from this industry? It must be remembered that Spain’s two largest political parties each owe about € 300 million to the banks. These loans must be repaid somehow, and subsidies to the wind and solar industries could be the way to do it. Contributions to election campaign funds are legal, and so are subsidies: technically speaking, ahem, we are not talking about corruption.

* Not the big banks, but Cajas de Ahorros. These are regional savings banks where politicians or their appointees have a say in the credit decisions (an open avenue to graft). No wonder they’re practically bankrupt now, and must seek capital injections totalling about € 20 billion before year-end. This was announced last week the Minister of the Economy, Elena Salgado.

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