As of the end of 2010, Spain was the world’s fourth largest producer of wind power, and in representing 95 per cent of the nation’s industry, the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE) has its work cut out as the driving force behind future progress. The country has already outshined many another and proved to be a true success story, and this looks set to continue for the foreseeable. As crucial rises in oil and gas prices continue to emerge, Spain appears to be increasingly supportive of its blossoming wind industry and the AEE plans to continue its efforts in assisting the Spanish government to recognize this technology as crucial for the country’s future. In the words of Answers by José Donoso, chairman of AEE, “Wind is our energy and we should support it.” IRJ met with Donoso to investigate how the AEE will continue to help Spain to do just that.
IRJ: 2009 was one of the best years for wind power in Spain with 2,459 megawatts of new capacity added to the grid, but 2010 was a difficult year with a about 1,500 megawatts installed in the country. How will 2011 unfold and what are the AEE’s predictions for this year end? Where does Spain stand today in terms of future development?
JD: 2011 is a year that comes full of uncertainties for the wind industry. Particularly, because we need the government to dictate the new regulatory framework that will rule the industry from 2013 onward. As you know, wind installations in Spain have a long maturing process, from six-to-eight years, which means that in order to install in 2013 the companies should already be buying turbines. And they are not, because they need to know what the rules of the game will be by then.
In terms of new installed capacity, the rhythm of installation should be similar to this year, around 1,500 megawatts, but there is a big but. In 2010, 700 megawatts of the new capacity installed were in the government’s goals for 2011. This implies the risk that the Spanish wind industry might not grow as much this year.
IRJ: Effective December 31, Spain stood at 20,676 megawatts installed. What might you define to be the key projects and areas of growth that have been achieved within Spain over the past year and what will they mean for the future development outlined?
JD: In 2010, the Spanish wind industry reached the goals that were established in the Renewable Energy Plan 2005-10. The industry has proved its ability to grow orderly and reach the government’s objectives in time. All we ask for now is that the new regulation will allow us to maintain our leading role in this industry worldwide.
Spain is also an important player in terms of innovation and invests heavily in it. Actually, we export technology for over €2,000 million per year. In recent years, the trend has been to manufacture bigger turbines—two-thirds megawatts—and more efficient machines for medium-low levels of wind. Turbines in Spain are the more advanced in Europe in terms of grid integration. Otherwise, we need to continue advancing in the competitiveness of our industry in order to be more independent to the political and regulatory movements.
IRJ: There is also a lot of talk about emerging European countries that are beginning to embrace wind and other renewable industries. How active are AEE member companies in these areas and how do you think these companies transferrable skills and experience at home will play out in other upcoming locations? Perhaps they can learn from Spain’s moves on grid integration here too?
JD: Spanish companies are already strong internationally. Nevertheless, AEE is very active supporting the internationalization of Spanish wind companies, as we understand the value of diversification in a globalized world. And we are also active transferring our know-how, which is considered an example all over the world, to countries that are less mature in this industry. In this sense, we are always open to offer our experience in a system considered an example of efficiency and in grid integration, among other things.
IRJ: In looking at AEE specifically, what are your plans for the coming year? Are there any focus issues or new areas you plan on exploring? What are AEE’s key messages today?
JD: The role of AEE is to stand up for the wind industry’s interests and we do that every day. Our main goal for this year is to negotiate with the government a new regulatory framework that responds adequately to both the industry and the society’s interests. In this sense, we are asking for a regulation that takes into account that the Spanish system, the feed in tariff, has worked and is considered an example of efficiency worldwide. Spain needs wind energy to comply with the European Union’s goals for 2020, and the government should support that with the new regulation.
Other than that, the activity of AEE is concentrated around its working groups, in which all our associates—we represent 95 per cent of the sector—play a leading role. We have working groups on environmental and labour issues, operation and maintenance, offshore and technology, internationalization and other different areas that affect our industry. We publish different studies and make the voice of the industry audible wherever we needed.