Humanity needs to move rapidly towards 100% renewable sources of power over the next couple of decades. I find the achievement of the Spanish electricity industry over the last 5 or 6 years truly remarkable and in many ways a model we all should follow. The 2 graphs show the changes over a single year, from 2008 to 2009. The recession, rather than efficiency gains, seems to be the cause of a 4.3% drop in demand. Together the fall in demand and the increasing share coming from renewables caused a 17% reduction in Co2 emissions in a single year. (The graphs and figures come from Chris Goodalls’ excellent carbon commentary website)
Spain has had a system of feed-in tariffs which has provided the financial security necessary for major new investments. This has allowed the rapid construction of many renewable energy systems, providing knowledge that will be invaluable in the transition to a low carbon economy and many new jobs at a time of recession. Wind provided 13% of the total and the Spanish grid managed to accommodate wind speed fluctuations, proving the wind sceptics wrong.
It is the solar sector, which is still only 3% of the total, I find most inspiring. It has grown very rapidly from nothing in a few years. Spain is now the world leader in Concentrating Solar Power (csp). Since the PS10 power tower opened in March 2007 the Spanish have opened half a dozen csp units with a total capacity of 237 Mw, but what is even more impressive is the fact that they’ve another 29 currently under construction with a combined capacity of 1982 Mw (List of solar thermal power stations, wikipedia), which to give it a sense of scale is almost the same as our huge Ratcliffe-on-Soar dirty coal power station in Nottinghamshire.
It’s my belief that concentrating solar will be one of humanity’s main power sources in future, so let’s raise a glass and toast the Spanish for getting on with the job. Next time; what’ll be our main power source in the UK?