The Spanish government sets lofty ecological goals

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Spain's green energy plan
By Jerry Brownstein
A new plan put forward by the government of Spain aims to cut carbon emissions by 50% and produce 100% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050. Teresa Ribera, minister for ecological transition, states that the new government, which came to power in June 2018, aims to revolutionize the energy sector of the economy. Under this proposal there will be no new licences issued for oil and gas exploration in Spanish waters, and all drilling will stop completely by 2040. Cars fuelled by petrol or diesel will be phased out, and after 2040 only electric and other “zero emission” vehicles will be sold in Spain. To shift the electricity grid away from fossil fuels, the government plans to add 3,000 megawatts of renewable power each year.

The last time that Spain tried to promote renewable energy did not go well. The country launched generous subsidies for wind and solar starting in 2004 but abruptly halted those payments after the financial crisis in 2009. Those steep subsidy cuts applied to projects that had already been built, which meant financial ruin for many of Spain’s largest solar investors. A big difference today is that subsidies are no longer needed because solar energy can now compete on its own with the cost of traditional power sources.

Spain’s potential for solar power is vastly greater than in the northern European countries, so it is high time that this valuable resource will finally be utilized. The new plan is called the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law, and in addition to its sweeping targets for clean sustainable energy, it also provides financial support and training for people whose jobs could be threatened by the change. The law must still be approved by parliament, where it could face opposition from those who want a more gradual transition away from fossil fuels, but the government is confident that it will pass.

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