Building a sustainable future

Upward revision of the PNIEC is not a magic solution

María Cañas Delgado - Project Director

June 30 is the deadline given by the European Commission to each Member State to publish the update of their respective Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (INECP). In the Spanish case, a review that will be considerably affected by factors that we all know well due to the current circumstances (deep energy crisis of 2022, Ukraine war, renewable hydrogen, biomethane, urgent need for storage, increase of European targets…).

The conclusion a few weeks after this publication is that the PNIEC objectives are going to become much more ambitious and the entire industry has been focused on lobbying for the technology that each of them advocates to “benefit” from the PNIEC.. I am the first to agree on the urgent need to accelerate the installation of renewables and the first to work every day to make this a reality, but I would like to reflect on one main question: what is the point of increasing targets if we are not going to meet them?

The current PNIEC foresees a total installed capacity in the electricity sector of 161 GW by 2030 (we currently have 120,195 MW). In this future planning to 2030, 50 GW will be wind energy (30.134 MW today); 39 GW will be solar photovoltaic (we currently have 20,746 MW); 27 GW will come from existing gas combined cycle plants; 16 GW will come from hydro; 9.5 GW from pumped hydro; 7 GW from solar thermal; and 3 GW from nuclear (we will disconnect 4 GW from the current 7 GW) as well as smaller capacities from other technologies. In other words, the main increase in expected capacity when the PNIEC was published would come from wind and photovoltaic technology..

In this regard, one of the main changes we all expect with the imminent update is the strong entry of hydrogen and biomethane. This is good news, since we must rely on all available technologies, each to the extent of the resources available in each geographical area. At Arrate we have been working for years on projects involving these technologies and they will undoubtedly be key in the Transition. In conclusion, the new installed capacity will give way to other players.

Of all the actors that already participate and will participate in this mix, I will focus on wind and photovoltaic, the technologies to which I dedicate most of my time and which, although they are not the only ones, are the undisputed protagonists.

Today we have 30,134 MW of wind power installed on the grid and the current PNIEC target places us at 40,663 MW by 2025 and 50,333 MW by 2030. In 2020 we installed 1,683 MW, in 2021, 843 MW and last year 1,770 MW. In other words, in the last three years we have installed 4,296 MW. These are important numbers, but in this context they are totally insufficient: to meet the current 2025 targets we would have to install 10,000 MW in the next year and a half.

If we analyze the processing aspect it seems that we are on the right track, we have almost 15,000 MW of wind energy with the EIS approved and more than 30,000 MW in technical analysis and prior consultations. However, experience obliges us to analyze these data from a conservative perspective, since throughout the processing of a project there may be a multitude of inconveniences that may condition its success. Even if I am confident that most of them will make it to RtB, and I am, it is going to be tremendously difficult to make it in time to meet the 2025 milestone.

On the other hand, to build all this power in the pipeline we will have to solve many serious problems along the way. The lack of network infrastructure or supply chain tensions are just two of the not insignificant ones. These problems will cause an unpleasant clash with reality in the coming months: the lack of supplies, resources and their increase in price cannot be solved by royal decree. In view of the PNIEC update, the wind sector is asking to increase the target to 63 GW in 2030, including wind farm repowering, offshore wind and renewable hydrogen production.

In photovoltaic we have a very different scenario, although not without problems. We currently have 20,746 MW installed and our target in the current PNIEC for 2025 is 21,713 MW in 2025 (we are going to achieve it) and 39,181 MW in 2030. In the last three years we have installed an incredible 11 GW (and each year more than the previous one). At the current rate, we would meet the objectives of the current PNIEC.

This is undoubtedly good news, but there are also some points on which we should reflect. What are we going to do with the energy left over during peak solar production? Storage is not receiving the right regulatory signals and we are already encountering energy spillage problems in these time slots. In addition, the stresses at the construction stage are also going to affect the PV industry (they already are).

The question of increasing the number of GW installed on the grid is important, but will we really have that demand in the next few years? It is a calculation to be taken into account. Some might mention the argument of exports in case of excess, but undoubtedly the interconnections with our neighboring countries (another topic to be discussed) are not ready and will not be in the short term. Although we are currently exporting to France or Portugal, we do not have the capacity to do so with the volumes we are talking about. On the other hand, it is much more pressing to make the investments planned by REE to improve our electricity infrastructures than to focus on exporting energy abroad, something that will com

The challenges we face are not few and the new PNIEC must try to solve them in the best possible way. The government is right to listen to the sector, but we must also try to achieve the overall perspective that the country needs. In this sense, given the current political scenario, we must demand that this issue is not abandoned due to its electoral unattractiveness; the energy system is a priority issue at the national level.

This update will undoubtedly set very ambitious goals that we will continue to work towards. Let us hope that all this work is framed in a well-planned and meaningful context, thanks to which we will achieve a more sustainable future for all.

María Cañas is Director of projects at Grupo Arrate. From this position of responsibility, the different projects of Southland and Arrate Energías, two of the Group’s companies, are centralised.

Maria has been working in the energy sector for more than fifteen years. Trained as an industrial engineer, she has worked in different areas of the sector throughout her career, as head of the operation, maintenance and works area or assistant manager in project development.

This is a translation from Spanish. If you want to read the original version click here.

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