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Spain helps out neighbour France in green power surge

17/01/2011

Wind power rose by 18.5 per cent in 2010 and now meets 16 per cent of demand. Luis Atienza, managing director of Spain's electricity grid, predicted that "within three years wind power will overtake nuclear as an electricity source". At its peak, on November 9, wind power met 43 per cent of demand.

Spain has bolstered its credentials as a world leader in renewable energy by exporting electricity to France for the first time. Heavy rain and strong winds during 2010 meant that renewables - principally hydro, wind and solar power - met 35 per cent of Spanish demand.


Wind power rose by 18.5 per cent in 2010 and now meets 16 per cent of demand. Luis Atienza, managing director of Spain's electricity grid, predicted that "within three years wind power will overtake nuclear as an electricity source". At its peak, on November 9, wind power met 43 per cent of demand.


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Heavy rains saw hydro-electrical production rise by 59 per cent on 2009. Solar power, meanwhile, lags behind at only three per cent, although some of the big solar plants have yet to come on stream.


Oil and gas continue to generate about half of Spain's capacity, while nuclear power accounts for around 19 per cent.


Javier Garcîa Breva, director of the solar energy programme, said that "even five years ago no one would have believed these figures were possible. No one expected renewables to grow so fast. They have unlimited potential."


Spain continues to import electricity from France but only as a staging post en route to Morocco, Portugal and Andorra. "France has not increased its capacity and so its ability to export has decreased," Atienza said. "This has fallen further due to industrial strife." During recent strikes dozens of French power stations were forced to close and Spanish production had to be imported to meet the shortfall.


This greening of the Spanish grid has not benefited the consumer, with prices likely to rise by nine per cent in 2011. The government sets electricity prices which have no direct correlation with production costs.


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