Renewables: an alternative to comply with Kyoto

Esteban Morràƒ¡s Andrés,
Chief Executive Officer, EHN, Spain.

For a large number of productive sectors in Europe the Kyoto Protocol has become a problem ” the difficulties involved in competing in a global market as a result of likely increases in costs ” when it is, in fact, a substantial part of the solution to the real problem: global warming, which could lead to the end of life on the planet in the long run.

It is true that the non-ratification of the Protocol by the United States and Russia introduces a number of unfavourable elements for its application in Europe. However, our continent, and within it Spain, cannot turn its back on policies that will help to guarantee the survival of the world in which we live, policies that should create new business opportunities.

Spain has made a commitment to renewable energy sources through a legislative framework. It is true that this is more the case for wind energy ” Spain is third in the world in terms of installed capacity and covers 5 per cent of its electricity demand through wind ” than biomass, a sector with great potential for development but one in which efficient legislation to enable it to really take off has not been put in place.

Spain’s wind power objectives are ambitious ” 13 000 MW by 2011 ” but it is well on the way to reaching this figure with 6202 MW at the end of 2003. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the best sites are already occupied and the difficulties involved in transferring electricity out and the administrative processes are greater.

A mere 300 MW of biomass capacity has been installed, at a growth rate that is far off the 3000 MW that the government expects to install by 2011. Moreover, there are hardly any new small hydro plants under construction as a result of the complex administrative processes involved.

As regards to solar energy, it remains to be seen whether the recently enacted remuneration rate for grid connected facilities will improve a situation in which this energy source is far short of the objectives set for it in the Spanish Plan to Promote Renewable Energy.


Esteban Morràƒ¡s Andrés is looking towards a huge push in Spain’s renewable sector
Click here to enlarge image

This scenario manifests itself in a context of extremely strong growth in electricity consumption in our country over the last few years and a similar growth rate in the levels of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Against an authorised growth rate of 15 per cent for Spain within the overall context of an eight per cent reduction in the European Union, the reality is that emissions in 2003 had already increased by 38 per cent and there are no signs that the situation is likely to change.

In real terms, the increase in productive activity and electricity consumption has been much higher than the growth of the contribution of renewables to the system.

Estimates

It is clear that coal and oil fired power stations should be coming to the end of their life cycle in Spain for environmental reasons.

Despite their lower levels of emissions, gas fired power stations ” another novelty, together with renewables, in the future energy ‘basket’ in Spain are not an alternative that we could categorise as ‘sustainable’, even without taking into account the fact that they increase the already extremely high energy dependence (70 per cent) of our country.

Nuclear power plants are reaching the end of their working life and fortunately there are no plans at present to put new plants of this type into service. In this context, the question is: “What is to be done?” from a sustainable development perspective to cover the growing energy needs of Spain. Indeed, the question needs to be asked to the entire developed world, without contributing to a greater deterioration of the environment.

For us the answer lies in progressive development of renewable energy sources, which should account for increasingly large proportions of the world energy basket, in a framework that encourages their development, eliminates obstacles to their implementation, and favours technological development to make them more efficient and more reliable.

This should happen in a context ” not limited to Spain ” that gives credibility to the widely-shared claim that the current energy model based on fossil fuels and nuclear energy is negative for our planet and needs to be replaced. If there is general consensus on this then clear signs must be provided that we are going in that direction. One of the most striking approaches would be to establish target dates (as long as is required) so that energy-producing facilities and productive sectors in general can adapt to a new, much more sustainable, energy model.

If this message, which may appear to be wishful thinking but is not at all, is proclaimed with clarity, things will start to change. Companies will be able to put all their capability of innovation and development into action so that a desirable environmental and energy scenario ” a model based on renewables and hydrogen ” will be possible on a technical and economic level.

Until then, Kyoto is a step in the right direction, and renewables should be a basic element in compliance with the Protocol.

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