avatarEnrique Dans

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Spain, renewable energy… and the hottest February in history

IMAGE: OpenAI’s DALL·E, via ChatGPT 4

There are several things one could say about February from a Spanish perspective: it was unusually sunny and warm; pretty windy; and spring seemed to have come early. In fact, it was the hottest Febuary ever recorded in history. All of them symptoms of a climate emergency that, despite the scientific evidence, many people still try to politicize or deny.

One thing we can say for sure, because it is an objective and verifiable fact, it is that in February, Spain generated 9.4TWh of solar and wind energy, the third highest renewable electricity production month in its history. For many days in February, the cost of electricity production in Spain was close to zero, and renewables contributed to more than half of the generation mix.

Spain consistently ranks in the daily graphs of European wind and solar production, making a very important contribution to reducing fossil fuel imports that, in addition to much higher generating costs, also produce pollution and greenhouse gases. We are definitely not the country that invests the most in the transition to renewables, but we are one of the best placed in terms of making the most of these resources.

At the end of last month, the price of electricity in Spain stood at around €2 per MWh, compared to €67 in pro-nuclear France. No matter what some people say, everything indicates that nuclear energy, with frighteningly expensive plants, prone to all sorts of constraints, and with zero production flexibility, is a bad alternative, because this lack of flexibility tends to discourage investment in renewables that are not only cheaper, but recognized by taxpayers as better for the environment.

And yet, there is still opposition: from endless administrative hurdles that hinder many projects, to local communities objecting to wind turbines or solar farms near them that, in practice, pose minor problems compared to those that could be caused by the installation of a thermal or nuclear power plant, and that produce more expensive energy.

The misinformation about renewable energies is widespread and believed by too many people, hindering the development of technologies that work very well for a country like Spain. If there has ever been a moment in history for Spain to be able to move from being a net importer to an exporter, it is this: with ever-shorter winters, capitalizing on natural resources becomes a necessity, and not doing so, the country is simply throwing money away.

We are talking about technologies that continue to undergo rapid development: solar panels become cheaper and more efficient as more units are manufactured, and their price has fallen by 99% over the last four decades. Batteries, another very important element in dealing with the intermittency of renewable generation, are also ever cheaper and more efficient, their price having fallen by some 97% over the last three decades. In addition, the limitations many people predicted about their production have turned out to be untrue: lithium reserves are not running out — on the contrary, more and more are being discovered; similarly, we now know that there are plenty of rare earth metals out there, we simply had not looked hard enough. We already know for sure, not from opinions, but from rigorous scientific work, that our planet has all the necessary elements to carry out a complete and total transition to renewable energies.

There are so many myths and downright lies being spun about renewables that it is hard work countering them, but absolutely necessary: it turns out that lithium batteries do not pollute and are perfectly recyclable. Even wind turbine blades, whose fiberglass construction made them difficult to recycle, are now sufficiently advanced as to be recyclable in an economically viable way. In short, the naysayers are running out of arguments.

The time has come to make decisions based on evidence, and this points not only to the fact that renewables will shape the energy landscape of the future and are an unbeatable fit with the characteristics of a country like Spain. No contest.

So, next time you hear a skeptic or an ignoramus spreading dangerous misinformation, calmly explain, using logic and common sense, why renewables are the future.

(En español, aquí)

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Renewable Energy
Spain
Climate Emergency
Energy
Energy Transition
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