Spain targets 100% renewable power by 2050

No Quixote: Spain's draft energy law is clear in its renewable energy and carbon-neutrality aspirations. [Shutterstock]

Spain’s government has published a new climate plan that targets a 100% renewable energy electricity system by 2050, with goals that outstrip those adopted by the EU and a ban on new gas and oil exploration.

In its draft law presented on Tuesday (13 November), Spain’s socialist government outlines its plans for 2030 and 2050, as EU countries put pen to paper on national climate strategies, legally required by Brussels.

The main goal will see Spain, Europe’s fifth largest economy, source 70% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 ahead of relying 100% on wind, solar, hydropower et al by the turn of mid-century.

Industry association SolarPower Europe’s James Watson said “it is exciting to see Spain setting the pace in its commitment to a 100% renewable powered future”, adding that it confirms that “it is possible to power large economies by renewables in the near future”.

Portugal breaks 100% renewables mark but remains isolated

Portugal produced more power from clean energy sources in March than it actually needed, marking the first time in the 21st century that renewables have topped 100% of its production. But a dearth of energy connections with the rest of Europe remains problematic.

In 2016, the International Energy Agency reported that Spain’s electricity demands are already met mostly by renewable sources, which as a whole make up 23%, closely followed by nuclear power, which provides just over 20%.

Greening the electricity sector also means that Spain will aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2030 and as much as 90% by 2050. Current levels are 17% over the baseline 1990 levels, so that actually translates into a 37% cut by 2020.

The draft law also mentions a low emissions 2050 strategy that should chart the Iberian nation’s way towards a carbon neutral economy.

European Climate Foundation CEO Laurence Tubiana said Spain “is showing the European Commission the way”, given that the EU executive is meant to release its own 2050 plans by the end of this month.

Behind-the-curtain of the EU's 2050 climate plan

The European Commission’s long-term climate plan could be hamstrung by a semantic dispute over vague figures and a fear of failure left over from previous ill-fated attempts at ambitious climate action, EURACTIV has learned.

In order to ween its energy mix off of coal, oil and gas, Spain will also stop issuing exploration licences, ban fracking and scrap new fossil fuel subsidies, with existing investments up for review. At least 20% of the national budget will also be earmarked for climate action.

According to sources, the draft law will be submitted to Spain’s parliament before the end of the year

Outdoing the EU

The draft law also reveals that Madrid is keen to go beyond the targets adopted under the EU’s clean energy package, a set of new and updated laws that will govern important aspects of energy and climate policy through the next decade.

Earlier this year, MEPs, national representatives and Commission officials agreed that member states will have to contribute to an EU-wide target of 32% for renewable energy generation and 32.5% for energy efficiency uptake.

But in keeping with its refreshed progressive approach to ecological transition, the draft legislation wants to meet a 35% target for both renewables and energy efficiency.

MEPs meeting in Strasbourg this week for the monthly plenary session formally signed off on those freshly-brokered energy rules, as well as the governance regulation, in what is the penultimate step before the council of ministers’ final approval later this year.

Under governance rules, EU capitals have to submit national energy and climate plans by 31 December 2019, while member states will be given 18 months to transcribe the energy efficiency law into national legislation.

Once member states have issued a final rubberstamp, the new rules will be published in the EU’s official journal and become actual law three days later.

EU lawmakers support 55% emission cuts as IPCC spectre lurks

Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday (10 October) in favour of increasing the EU’s Paris Agreement emissions pledge by 2020. They also urged the European Commission to make sure its long-term climate strategy models net-zero emissions for 2050 “at the latest”.

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