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Has Spain learned its renewable energy lesson?

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What a difference a decade makes. In 2007 Spain was intent on becoming of one the world’s green energy leaders. Second only to Germany in Europe for installed solar capacity, they had just opened world’s first commercial solar thermal polar plant opened close to Saville. And on top of that, the government was offering generous subsidies, promising above market rates for green energy producers to help ensure that more people would invest in renewables. And invest they did – there was a huge development of both wind and solar farms.

But all was not well with Spain’s renewable energy sector. So let’s take a look at exactly what went wrong and see whether the country has taken sensible steps to stop these problems coming up again in future. In short, let’s see whether Spain has learned its renewable energy lesson.

Here, Mike James – a writer and Marbella real estate specialist – discusses the impact made by Spain’s attempts to go green.

Spiralling costs

The problem was that this subsidy scheme was appallingly badly structured and Spain began to have an insurmountable deficit between the amount utilities companies were paying to green energy providers, and the amount those companies were getting from their customers.

Much of this was due to the fact that the costs were not passed on to customers, so as the cost of supply went up, the prices for the energy remained very low. At its peak in 2012, Spain lost €7.3 billion and has reached debts of €26 billion. But this is far from being the only problem that Spain’s failed green revolution created.

It has been suggested 2.2 jobs were lost for every job that the green energy industry created. And each green job that was created is estimated to have cost Spanish taxpayers an eye-watering $770,000 (and only one in ten of those jobs were permanent). It’s clear, then, that Spain got its attempt at promoting renewable energy wrong – very badly wrong.

The ‘Sun tax’

It doesn’t end there. The Spanish government have even been strongly criticised for the policies that they have used to attempt to get the country out of the situation. They have introduced the first ever so-called ‘sun tax’ – where new solar installations face heavy taxes which makes it almost impossible for them to be economically viable.

Some have suggested that this tax is reasonable, as those using their own solar energy usually rely on the national grid as a backup if they aren’t producing enough solar power. However, others have suggested that the government is merely acting to protect traditional power suppliers who don’t want to see the solar industry succeed.

Spain has seen its solar sector go badly downhill since. However, there are signs that in 2017 and beyond, renewables in Spain have reasons to feel positive.

Cautiously optimistic

Things are improving. In January 2015 Spain set a new daytime record, when wind energy accounted for 54 per cent of their total energy used. And in November of that year, wind accounted for more than 70 per cent of total energy. But before we get too optimistic about Spain’s turnaround, remember that their Iberian neighbour Portugal recently managed to run purely on renewable energy for four days straight, so clearly there is some serious room for improvement.

It’s currently in the balance as to whether they will hit the target for them by the European Union: for renewables to make up a total of at least 20.8 per cent of total energy used by 2020. At the end of 2016 the number was at 17.4 per cent which means that the country is currently just on target to achieve the goal.

A long way to go

But before we get carried away, it’s clear that issues remain that the government will need to sort out. In 2015, Spain’s government failed to install a single megawatt of new wind capacity for the first time since the 1980s. To meet the EU’s 2020 target, Spain will need an additional 6,400 megawatts. This is achievable as the country has managed to do it before, but that was during the green boom years when market conditions were far better suited to that sort of growth. So clearly Spain still has some learning to do if it is going to find a way to produce green energy without putting itself into further debt.

 

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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