Spain is getting the vast majority of its electricity from carbon-free sources, the country’s grid operator reported on Tuesday.
According to Red Electrica de Espana (REE), the Spanish peninsula got 69 percent of its electricity generation in March from technologies that produce zero carbon emissions — that is to say, renewable energy plus some of its nuclear power. Nuclear as a whole provided 23.8 percent of the country’s electricity in March, while 47 percent came solely from renewable sources.
Most of the renewable electricity being generated in Spain comes from wind, which alone provided 22.5 percent of the country’s electricity last month. Wind often competes with nuclear for the title of Spain’s top electricity generation source overall — in fact, though nuclear pulled through in March as the top source of electricity, wind has overall provided more electricity to Spain in the entirety of 2015. From January to March, according to REE, wind provided 23.7 percent of electricity generation while nuclear made up 22.7 percent.
Spain has long been a leader in renewable energy, just recently becoming the first country in the world to have relied on wind as its top energy source for an entire year. The country is attempting to use wind power to supply 40 percent of its electricity consumption by 2020, according to CleanTechnica.
At the same time, Spain is also developing other renewable sources of energy, particularly solar photovoltaic. Though it currently only accounts for about 3 percent of electricity generation, Spain’s solar industry is one of the largest in the world, according to Al Jazeera. In 2012, it reported that solar power accounted for almost 2,000 megawatts of energy. Comparatively in the United States, there were 3,313 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations that same year.
Though the U.S. may have more solar cumulatively, Spain’s solar makes up more more of the smaller country’s electricity use as a whole. In 2013, solar accounted for about 0.2 percent of the net electricity produced in the United States, according to the Institute for Energy Research. That same year, solar accounted for 3.1 percent of Spain’s total electricity, according to REE.
Still, Spain’s renewable energy story has not been all roses. The country’s aggressive goals have been heavily subsidized by its government, and the government has fallen into economic distress as a result. Specifically, the New York Times reported in 2013 that Spain’s tariff deficit had built up a cumulative debt of about €26 billion ($35 billion). Since then, however, the country has slashed its subsidies, putting the bulk of costs back on the power utilities themselves.
The subsidy cuts happened last summer, and since then renewable energy has not significantly grown in the country as a whole. But it has grown substantially in at least one part of Spain — the tiny island of El Hierro, which is nearing its goal to be powered 100 percent by wind and water.