The map of sustainable energies could change considerably before next autumn arrives. Although there are still many steps to be taken, the European Commission has opened the debate on the inclusion of such important energy sources for generation as nuclear or combined cycle (natural gas) within green technologies.
If this becomes a reality, Spain could boast that more than 80% of the electricity consumed within its borders would come from renewable sources, according to the available data from Red Eléctrica. The closing of the year in terms of generation has been historic and our country has achieved an unprecedented milestone: 47.6% of electricity production is green.
In 2021, the record figures for renewable energies have been possible thanks to their increase in the Spanish generating park. Specifically, this year renewables added more than 2,800 new green MW, mainly wind and photovoltaic, accounting for 55.6% of the total.
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Nuclear and combined cycle are leading
The wind that has blown throughout this year in our country has been fundamental for our electricity system and the energy produced from wind power has exceeded 60,600 GWh, with an estimated increase of 10.5 % over last year.
Particularly noteworthy is the increase in solar photovoltaic, which in 2021 grew by 19.8 % in installed capacity – with nearly 2,300 new MW – thus being the source that has increased the most. Since 2018, the MW of photovoltaic has almost tripled.
But, despite the good growth rate that Spain has with respect to renewables, it is still highly dependent on the two energies that the European Commission intends to declare as green. Nuclear is the second technology in order of importance when it comes to generation since 54,067 Gwh were used during 2021. This amount, according to data from Red Eléctrica, nuclear energy accounts for 20.8% of total generation.
The same is true for combined cycle. Energy that depends on natural gas continues to be essential for lighting Spanish homes, streets and businesses. During the recently abandoned year, Spain pulled this technology to 44,678 Gwh, representing 17.2% of the total.
With these figures, and if the European Commission’s draft is finalized, Spain would reach 87% of generation through renewable or green energies. Red Eléctrica forecasts that in 2022 it will reach the milestone of 70% of green and nuclear energy.
Nuclear and gas are intended to be classified in the second category of the taxonomy, that is, among those that are low in carbon emissions and for which there is no alternative available at the moment.
The electricity sector has on many occasions defended nuclear technology because, as sources in the sector point out, it allows “alleviating the price per megawatt” and, above all, “being able to guarantee supply to millions of people”. Nuclear energy has very high investment costs, but low operating costs. Hence the importance of the fact that the sites are designed to have a life of more than 60 years.
For example, in Spain, on average, the operation of these plants is around 85 % of their capacity. The variable costs of nuclear power plants (fuel, operation, and maintenance, etc.) are around 40 €/MWh for historical plants, already amortized.
That is not the case for natural gas. As has been the case over the last year, the price of gas has increased by more than 60%, which has resulted in the imposing increases in electricity bills. By depending on a raw material that is governed by supply and demand, the cost of generation through the combined cycle is subject to the vagaries of the market.
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First published in EL INDEPENDIENTE, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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