X-ray of electricity production in Spain: the use of gas skyrockets and renewables are consolidated

The summer of 2022 will be remembered for its extreme temperaturesthe devastating fires and also because of the high price of electricity. In August paid more than ever for electricity. On average, Spanish consumers with a regulated tariff paid 300 euros per MWh, despite the fact that the call 'Iberian exception' is mitigating this price escalation. And, to a large extent, you pay more because gas has become the main source of electricity.

A fact that is not punctual, but has been consolidated over the last decade. If the focus is broadened and what has happened in these ten years is seen, it is clear that gas has been reinforced as the main raw material when generating electricity. An energy that must be imported from other countries, which depends on the volatility of international markets and that usually comes from unstable states.

For ten years, Spain has produced more light through combined cycle plants. It must be taken into account that high temperatures cause hydroelectric generation to drop, as well as wind, photovoltaic and solar thermal generation during summer heat peaks. And, if those technologies go down, what is compensated with is gas. For example, this summer, in the two heat waves, the historical records for gas demand to generate electricity were exceeded. On July 13, 803.8 GWh was reached; and on June 16, 770 GWh were reached. So far in 2022, more electricity has been produced with gas than in the other years of this last decade.

In the computation of these last 10 years, the use of the combined cycle has taken off by almost 58%, as can be seen in the following graph.

On the other hand, in this framework of a decade, there are other technologies that have reduced their weight in the electricity production mix. This has happened with cogeneration and hydraulics. Also, with highly polluting technologies such as coal, which have already begun their closure process despite the fact that they can now take on a new life -or an extension- in the face of the energy crisis that is feared for next winter. Coal production has reduced its weight by almost 85% when compared to 2012.

The relevance of nuclear power also decreases, by almost 5%. Nuclear power plants slightly reduce their contribution, although their weight in the generation mix remains practically unchanged at 20%. It must be taken into account that nuclear power plants do not stop their production, except for maintenance issues. Also in these years there has been the closure of the Garoña nuclear power plant, in Burgos, which now the PP and Vox are looking to recover.

Nuclear energy has a marked closure schedule. It will be from 2027 and until 2035 in a transition process that will be progressive and, therefore, will not entail any dismantling of plants in the coming months, when Europe will face supply problems due to Putin's decision to turn off the tap of gas to the EU. Nonetheless, right-wing political formations, such as the PP, Vox or Cs advocate extending the life of nuclear.

The nuclear ones are going to lose weight because the renewable ones are gaining it and are being reinforced as an alternative to the most polluting sources. And they will go further, because Spain is going to increase its green generation targets for the next decade. Not only because of the current context of skyrocketing inflation and demand for savings derived from the war in Ukraine, but also because of the decarbonisation objectives set by the European Union. The European Parliament voted this Wednesday that renewables cover 45% of energy consumption in 2030.

From the outset, in this decade, wind energy has also surpassed the contribution of nuclear energy, although now gas is the first source of electricity generation.

The following graph shows how the relevance of renewable energies has grown in these years. They have gone from generating 29% of electricity in 2012 to reaching 42% in 2022. The key is in the increase in wind and solar generation, which have gone from 21% to 34% throughout these years.

It is both wind-generated and solar-generated growth. Its production has shot up almost 119% in the last three years; and more than 154% over the last decade.

Currently, Spain produces three times more photovoltaic energy than in 2012, as seen in the following graph.

A photovoltaic production that is going to step on the accelerator, if nothing changes, in the immediate future, given the growth it is having and the projection for the coming months, due to the self-consumption growth.

The objective is for Spain to reach 14 GW of self-consumption in 2030, which could be increased because the current evolution already allows us to be more optimistic.

A takeoff of this type of energy, either due to public awareness, or due to the need to protect and save in the current energy situation, which means that the sector assumes that it can absorb more than 50,000 employees to develop all the projects in the portfolio.

With this growth in recent years, solar energy has become one of the winning green energies in the new electricity generation mix. At the opposite extreme, coal, which has reduced its weight so far this year -compared to 2012- by more than 77%.

The use of coal plants has been reduced, as has also happened with cogeneration plants and hydraulic energy, as can be concluded in this graph. Hydraulic has been clearly affected by the drought and, also, by the emptying of reservoirs by power companiesespecially in the past year.

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