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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

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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