Spain in global first as wind power dominates

Spain has become the first country to draw more electricity from wind power than any other source over the course of an entire year.

Wind met 20.9% of demand in the country in 2013, putting it just ahead of nuclear (20.8%), according to the country’s grid operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE).

The electricity generated by wind increased by more than 13% compared with 2012 and was enough to supply 15.5m households. Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 23%, helped by the surge in power from wind turbines.

Elsewhere on the renewables landscape, hydroelectric power was boosted by high levels of rainfall and met 14.4% of demand, more than doubling its contribution the previous year. Spain’s highly developed solar power industry generated 3.1% of its electricity.

Renewables as a whole accounted for 42.4% of the country’s electricity needs in 2013, said REE.

As a result, output from non-renewable sources fell significantly – by 34% for combined cycle gas plants, by 27% for coal-fired plants and by more than 8% for nuclear.

The achievement is even more marked as 2013 saw the Spanish government slash renewables subsidies as the country struggles with crippling national debt, but industry experts are concerned the financial crisis may still impact on its energy progress.

Spanish wind energy association AEE said proposed energy reforms will have “an unfair and disproportionate effect on the wind sector,” and notes that changes could apply retroactively, meaning operational wind farms will not achieve the income expected when investments were made, therefore making it difficult to attract new investors to the sector.

Nonetheless, officials are confident that Spain’s achievements in this area will hold it in good stead in the coming months. Jacopo Moccia, head of political affairs at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said: “Spain is a demonstration of how wind energy is becoming the backbone of Europe’s energy system.

“It is also a demonstration of how the energy revolution can create a world-leading industry, jobs and export opportunities.

“The Spanish government should be proud of this success story and promote its wind industry, rather than scupper it.”