With the new year´s arrival, Spain celebrates the 30th anniversary of its accession to the European Economic Community (EEC), the current EU. The entry of Spain and Portugal constituted the third enlargement of the European Union. A profound transformation that has allowed us to progress in many aspects but how has this been experienced in the energy sector? More shadows than light.
On the economic side, since the mid-eighties, Spain has undergone an unprecedented and profound transformation of its socio-economic structure. The integration into the European Union has contributed significantly to this change. Gross domestic product (GDP) of Spain has doubled (at market prices) since the entry into the EU from 461,394.8 million in 1985-before the adhesion- and the 476 400 million in 1986 the year when Spain entered the EU – to 921 700 million in 2013.
Spain has also cut away from the rest of EU members in terms of GDP. It entered the EU with a GDP equivalent to 72% of the EU average and stood at 94 in 2014 %.
30 years in the energy sector
While the economy has had a rising and progressive development in the energy sector it has not been that clear. In the past 30 years, Spain has had more than a dozen energy plans, since a new plan has appeared almost every three years, and different from the previous, especially if coincided with a change of the political party in power, but none has succeeded in preventing us from being one of the most dependent on fossil fuels among the European countries.
Much has to do with the fact that 90% of Spanish transport is by road. This imbalance is justified “by the ineffectiveness of rail freight traffic and the lack of navigable waterways in our country,” explains the Spanish Association of Oil Product Operators (AOP).
And that in spite that in the 70s, Spain approved energy plans based on nuclear power to reduce this over-dependence. However, in 1982, the first government of Felipe González slowed the industry. He established a nuclear moratorium halting the construction of new plants and turned towards domestic coal as a substitute for oil.
First came the nuclear, coal came after … But since in 1993, a European directive of the then European Economic Community of the Coal and Steel (ECCS) restricted aids to this raw material, natural gas started to be regarded with greedy eyes. In 1997 the Maghreb pipeline came into operation and in ten years the gas developed so much that today there is surplus in excess.
The XXI century arrives and come renewables
Between 2001 and 2010 several national energy plans that continue investing in gas (it has represented 33% of the power generation) are presented but renewables are starting to become protagonists.
The Renewable Energies Development Plan (2000-2010), the Renewable Energy Plan (2005-2010) and the Renewable Energy Action Plan still in force (2011-2020), sought to improve savings and fuel efficiency setting to this end generous incentives for the use and installation of renewables. But with the crisis and adjustments in 2013, the current acting government, cut off the water and decreases the remuneration to renewables excessively.
A decision that causes that are suffered particularly by small savers who once invested in this industry and who now are faced with the retroactive nature of the rule, leaving them in utter ruin.
Liberalization of the electricity market
In these 30 years the liberalization of the electricity market has also been experienced. It was in 1997 during the first government of José María Aznar. Some experts say it was an attempt to liberalization which in practice was not so because the large utilities have been the big winners instead of the consumers. The latter have in turn seen their electricity bills increase by almost 80% only in the last ten years, making it one of the most expensive in Europe.
The very expensive electricity, renewables on war, an energy dependence that is still as high as 30 years ago … The political management in this sector does not seem to have borne fruit. Probably it is because it has always been done from the myopia of the four-year term.
It is now the time to change the chip and start to draw a long term roadmap and if possible, with the consensus of all political parties.