In a historic feat, Spain became the first European country to run its entire power grid on renewable energy sources for nine consecutive hours on Tuesday, May 18. The achievement was made possible by a combination of favorable weather conditions and a surge in solar and wind installations in recent years.
According to data from the state electricity provider Red Eléctrica de España (REE), between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., the generation of green electricity exceeded 100% of the mainland demand, a milestone that had already been reached on previous occasions, but not for such a prolonged period. The excess energy was exported to neighboring countries or stored in pumped hydro plants, which can release it when prices are higher or demand is greater.
The record-breaking day was hailed by environmental groups and energy experts as a sign of the country’s commitment to the green transition and a preview of the future energy landscape. Spain has set ambitious targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 23% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. To do so, it plans to increase the share of renewables in its electricity mix from the current 44% to 74% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
“This is a historic day for Spain and for Europe. It shows that the transition to 100% renewable energy is not only possible, but also economically and socially beneficial,” said Teresa Ribera, the minister for ecological transition and demographic challenge, in a statement. She added that the government will continue to support the development of clean energy sources and the electrification of key sectors such as transport, industry and heating.
The main drivers of Spain’s renewable boom are solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power, which together accounted for more than 60% of the electricity generation on Tuesday. Both technologies have seen a significant drop in costs and an increase in efficiency in recent years, making them more competitive and attractive for investors. According to REE, Spain added more than 4 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV capacity and 1.7 GW of wind capacity in 2020, reaching a total of 14.9 GW and 27.4 GW respectively.
“Spain has enormous potential for solar and wind energy, and it is tapping into it with determination and vision. This is not only good for the environment, but also for the economy and the consumers,” said José Donoso, the director general of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), an industry association. He pointed out that solar PV reduces the wholesale price of electricity during daylight hours and creates thousands of jobs across the country.
However, challenges remain for Spain to achieve its renewable goals and to ensure a smooth and fair transition. The country still relies on nuclear, gas and coal plants to provide backup power when renewables are not available or sufficient, and it faces grid congestion and regulatory uncertainty that could hamper new projects. Moreover, it needs to address the social impacts of closing down polluting plants and mines, and to ensure that all citizens have access to affordable and clean energy.
“We are on the right track, but we cannot be complacent. We need to accelerate the deployment of renewables, invest in storage and flexibility solutions, strengthen the interconnections with other countries, and promote a participatory and inclusive energy model,” said Sara Pizzinato, the head of renewable energy at Greenpeace Spain. She urged the government to implement a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects and to phase out existing ones as soon as possible.
- Spain breaks renewable energy record with nine hours of 100% green power | The Independent | May 20, 2023
- Spain sets new record for renewable energy generation | PV Magazine | May 19, 2023
- How Spain achieved 100% renewable electricity for nine hours | Energy Live News | May 21, 2023