Spain getting on the right track, but missing speed

What to expect from Spain's climate emergency declaration



Ismael Morales, Fundacion Renovables

Publication date

January 29, 2020

This is an article by guest editor Ismael Morales from our Spanish partner organisation Fundacion Renovables. Ismael provides us with insights into the latest policy decisions of the Spanish government lead by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and steered by Minister Teresa Ribera.

After almost one full year with a functioning government and two general elections,  Spanish  leaders are trying to make up for lost time. They have taken two important steps which Fundación Renovables has been fighting for: appointing a Vice-Presidency for the Ecological Transition and the Demographical Challenge and the Climate Emergency Declaration.

The declaration, adopted Jan. 21st, commits leaders to adopt 30 lines of priority actions, 5 of them within the first 100 days of government, to fight climate change and speed up the energy transition with transversal policies:

The measures lay very positive foundations and they are unprecedented in the country: for the first time, actions to avoid climate change and speed up the energy transition are prioritised and considered in governmental policies. The direction is broadly correct and the content, apart from not going into enough technical details, is favourable for tackling the current situation.

Proposals with little ambition

Our more nuanced assessment is that ambition is lacking. Fundación Renovables reckons that an energy transition cannot be tranquil and gradual, but quite the contrary. The future law aims to reach a 100% renewables-based electricity system by 2050, whereas the Fundación proposes to achieve this in 2040, with an 80% penetration by 2030. In this sense, the second draft of the NIECP (National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan) published on January 23rd foresees an emissions reduction target of 23% compared to 1990, very tight and little demanding compared to the 40% of the European Commission or the 55% of the European Parliament.

This second draft of the NIECP is more detailed and advanced, but still lacks substantial changes compared to the first version. Fundación Renovables says the objectives cannot be met without putting greater emphasis on the electrification of the energy sector by 2030, considering only a 27% share of electricity in the final energy demand, only 4 percentage points above the target scenario for 2020. With the current objectives 10 years could be wasted. It is crucial to increase the penetration of renewables in the system. Fundación Renovables’s proposes  that efforts are doubled with a 2030 objective of 50%, reaching 80% by 2050.

The second NIECP draft also neglects demand management as there are no targets for self-consumption and storage. The necessity of a flexible electric system which allows for the integration of renewable energy and that puts the consumer at the centre, is fundamental for democratising and decarbonising the energy sector. That is the proposal in our latest report (“El Contrato Social de la Energía: electrificar para democratizar” (in English: “The Social energy contract: electrifying for democratising). Until now, flexibility has been dealt with from the supply side. But the demand side must be included in order to allow for bi-directional exchanges between consumers and producers with a responsible consumption by all.

Priority lines of action

The Spanish Government sets out 25 other lines of priority actions for its mandate, in which it does not commit itself nor set any deadlines. This simply results in a good declaration of intent, without being binding:

  • not granting any fiscal benefits on fossil fuels
  • take a stand on sustainable mobility
  • a National Health and Environment Plan
  • policies for rural development and
  • the presentation, before 2021, of a Sustainable Tourism 2030 Strategy for Spain.

Overall, Fundación Renovables agrees with the list of measures. However, without details on how they will be accomplished it is impossible to assess whether they will bring a substantial benefit to the decarbonisation of the Spanish energy sector. That is why Fundación Renovables calls on the new government to concretise and raise its commitments as quickly as possible so that Spain can take the lead in climate change policies.