Greenpeace Still Tilting at Windmills in Spain Wind

Posted February 15, 2011 | folder icon Print this page

Gabriel Calzada is Associate Professor of Economics at the King Juan Carlos University in Spain and Founder-President of the Instituto Juan de Mariana.

Just in time for President Obama’s new budget with a large increase in spending on ‘clean energy’ (renewables), and the coincidental hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Green Jobs and Trade, Greenpeace is weighing in to try and rehabilitate President Obama’s erstwhile model for these schemes: Spain.

This is a curious move as the White House itself dropped the example like a hot potato after we revealed the truth about Spain’s experience as being anything but the success story that was being told in the U.S.

Regardless, Jose Luis Garcia of Greenpeace has written, for example, that:

Annual data from Red Electrica, a major Spanish power transmission company, confirms the unstoppable rise of clean energies in Spain. In 2010, renewables supplied 35% of all Spain’s electricity, higher than ever before, and even though overall power consumption was higher than 2009. Wind power alone supplied 16%, twice as much power as coal and on very windy days, wind power peaked at over half the national power consumption.

I have debated Sr. Garcia and his colleagues on several occasions in the media, so I am not entirely surprised by the games played here. But the truth is available in the official data, at the regulator’s webpage www.cne.es, if difficult to find if you are not trained for it.  (While I understand this is Spain, Greenpeace appears to know this but feels compelled to torture the data to confess to their faith.)

The participation of the renewable energy sales in the total gross demand consumed in 2010 was 24% (15% wind, 2.62% solar, 5% small hydro, 1% biomass).

What Sr. Garcia does not mention is the high cost of subsidizing these renewables. In 2009 alone, subsidies for renewables were 6.5 billion euros ($8.8 billion) in Spain—a county with a population less than 1/6th the size of the U.S. population.

So wind and solar provide well under one-fifth of Spain’s electricity.  Now, Garcia’s figure includes dams—which environmentalists oppose.[1] To get to their figure, Greenpeace—as the Red Electrica website makes perfectly clear—includes all hydroelectric production. What is most disturbing, and revealing, about such a tout is that Greenpeace is well known as an aggressive anti-hydroelectricity lobby. So, in order to dramatically overstate a claim of a category of something they want, they include large amounts of that which they despise.

Just this month Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero admitted for the first time that Spain’s solar industry just might be a bubble after all, with many resemblances to another recent bubble in housing.

Spain’s green layoffs over the last two years have been devastating.  According to some sources, up to 75,000 working contracts have been destroyed. That would not shock us if they are right since most of the jobs created were temporary for installation purposes. It was a bubble created by expensive ‘green jobs’ schemes.  The bubble burst, leaving Spain vastly worse off than had it not ever incurred the debt and economic harm in the first place.

Spain has increased its electricity costs for households and small businesses 20% in the past twelve months (from January 2010 to January 2011). The government’s official explanation of this increase is the huge bill for renewables’ subsidies.

Since the Socialist government took office with its ‘green jobs’ and ‘clean energy economy’ agenda, much like President Obama’s, industry’s electricity costs have risen 110% and  Spain now has 20.33% official unemployment.

All of this has played out as a research team I led predicted in our March 2009 report “Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy source”.

The ultimate lesson from this seems to be that if they have to go to the following lengths —and where was the commentary about Spain’s 20.33% unemployment?—well, that tells you how desperate they are for ‘clean energy economy’ success stories.

The truth is that the success stories don’t exist.  These are the results the U.S. should expect, too, if it follows Spain’s policies as appears to still be the administration’s intention.



[1] Specifically, “Renewable energies, favored this year by the high level of reserves of water for hydroelectric power, covered, according to provisional data, 35% of the demand in 2010, six points more than last year. By technologies, in addition to the aforementioned growth experienced by hydroelectric generation, noteworthy again is wind power generation which, with a growth of 18.5% in its generation, increased its share of the demand coverage to 16%.”

Author:
Gabriel Calzada