On Tuesday, Spain took another step toward the definitive end of the coal era. Seven of the fifteen coal power stations in the nation will cease operations completely. Several of them had not generated a single watt in months and are no longer profitable.
None of these facilities made the necessary million-dollar investments demanded by the European Union to comply with its environmental regulations and are forced to shut down as of June 30.
Another step against climate change
This milestone comes a year and a half after the closure of the few coal mines left. These mines were maintained with public funds now banned by Brussels. Also, it’s been more than six months since, for the first time since the inauguration of the country’s first thermal plant in 1949, Spain produced all its electricity without coal.
Three of the seven thermal plants that were shut down this Tuesday belong to Naturgy: Meirama (A Coruña), Narcea (Asturias), and La Robla (León). Two belong to Endesa: Adorra (Teruel) and Compostilla (León). And one belongs to Iberdrola: Velilla (Palencia). Finally, one is owned by Viesgo: Puente Nuevo (Córdoba).
These plants have a combined capacity of 5,460 megawatts, nearly 60% of the installed capacity in Spain. None of them made the necessary investments to meet the requisites for emissions reduction. Their closure was inevitable.
Accelerating the coal plants’ shut down also stems from the high costs of this material, given the large amount of emissions it produces. Since 2018, the EU established the Emissions Trading System (ETS), which forces large industries to pay for their carbon dioxide emissions. Because of this tax, coal power stations lost competitiveness compared with renewables or even natural gas which, although it is also a fossil fuel that demands great initial investment, emits less CO2.
Ponemos la primera piedra del #ParqueEólico Puerto del Rosario, el mayor que se va a construir en #Fuerteventura. Más info, en nuestra sala de prensa: https://t.co/KViQGuDeCO pic.twitter.com/sHN2yAGoE8
— Naturgy Prensa (@NaturgyPrensaEs) January 15, 2020
The road ahead
These shutdowns will not be the last. Large utilities announced plans to accelerate the closure of other coal power plants. Although these plants are making the necessary investments to adjust to the EU’s environmental criteria, the market situation has hindered their profitability.
Endesa has planned to close its As Pontes (A Coruña) and Litoral (Almería) plants. Viesgo will proceed to do the same Los Barrios (Cádiz). The Lada Plant (Asturias) owned by Iberdrola also announced its imminent closure.
¡Descubre Reshape: #Innovability para construir un futuro mejor! 🌍
— endesa (@Endesa) June 24, 2020
A fair transition
Closing these plants leaves some 2,400 people unemployed. Additionally, there are some municipalities where thermal power is the only industry. Consequently, this will diminish their tax revenues. The Ministry for Ecological Transition has also pressured power companies to present stable plans for the affected areas, which in many cases focus on renewables and, even, in some of the projects require more jobs than those lost with the closures.
In mid-April, a four-party agreement was signed between Minister Teresa Ribera, the Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, companies that own coal plants (Endesa, Iberdrola, and Naturgy) and the majority unions (CCOO and UGT). The document tries to consolidate the bases of the just transition agreements for the territories most affected by the plant closings.
The strategy entails million-dollar investments to install windmills and solar panels where ore was previously burned, so that the employees affected by the closings can be relocated. In practice, it will take an investment of around €5 billion.
— Iberdrola (@iberdrola) June 29, 2020
Large utilities have revealed some of their plans. Iberdrola wants to build the largest photovoltaic complex in Castilla y León in Velilla (Palencia). The facility will have a capacity of 400 MW and will entail an investment of €300 million.
Meanwhile, Endesa has committed to developing a €1.4 billion renewable mega project to replace the Andorra (Teruel) thermal station. It is also planning to make a €341 million investment in renewable projects in the Compostilla area.
Finally, Naturgy offered to install a wind farm and an €80 million advanced renewable gas center in Meirama (A Coruña). These projects do not include the possible benefits of the European Commission’s future fund for fair transition, currently being negotiated in Brussels.
For more information, check Energía16