Energy transition in Spain
The key role of energy transition in Spain to face the challenges of climate change
Climate change is one of the most important challenges facing humanity in the 21st century – and the energy transition has a key role to play in combating it. Basing our economy on renewable energy sources helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our planet. The transition to a decarbonised society is everyone's task.
Energy transition, Iberdrola España's top priority.
What is the energy transition?
Energy transition is understood as the set of changes in energy production, distribution and consumption patterns to transform the current energy system – dependent on fossil fuels – into an electricity model based on renewable and clean energies. The ultimate goal is to achieve greater sustainability.
This is not the first time in history that we have experienced a transition in energy consumption. There are already precedents for transitions; for instance, the shift from wood to coal as a means of energy production, in the 19th century; and from coal to oil, in the 20th century. However, what characterises the current transition is that it responds to the need to protect our planet from one of the most important challenges it has ever faced: climate change.
The energy transition enables us to change the current energy model based on the use of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil). The combustion of these fossil fuels generates large quantities of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, which accumulate in the atmosphere and retain heat – contributing to an increase in the global temperature of the planet. Thus, the energy transition will reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by retaining part of the Earth's thermal radiation. In short, this is a transition that concerns us all: we need energy in our daily lives, and with zero-emission energy, we all protect the planet.
The Iberdrola Group, of which Iberdrola España is part, committed to leading this transition more than 20 years ago: today, we are already world leaders in renewable energy. In 2022, we revised upwards our decarbonisation goals – committing to achieving net zero emissions by 2040 – and we also presented our climate action plan at the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit in New York at the end of 2023. In addition, Iberdrola Group has set investments of €47 billion over the period 2023-2025 to drive the energy transition.
Benefits of the energy transition
Energy transition not only helps us to combat climate change and brings environmental benefits, but also offers economic and social opportunities. Here are some of the most important benefits of the energy transition:
Reduces the greenhouse effect: Renewables do not emit greenhouse gases in energy generation processes and are therefore our main tool for combating climate change.
Less dependence on imports and diversification: Dependence on imported fossil fuels, in addition to entailing a cost, can carry risks associated with price fluctuations and supply chain issues. Local renewables, such as solar and wind, allow countries rich in these energy sources, such as Spain, to be less dependent on imports and to have a more diverse, stable and secure energy supply.
Security and sustainability: Unlike fossil fuels whose reserves are finite, renewable energy sources are inexhaustible – making them more secure and sustainable energy sources in the long term.
Clean energy: Fossil fuels can release other pollutants that affect air and water quality. Renewable energies are practically free of pollutant emissions into the environment.
Improves people's health and well-being: Its expansion contributes to minimising the health impacts of climate change (e.g. heat waves, extreme weather events, etc.), as well as contributing to the reduction of diseases associated with local pollution.
Affordability and accessibility: Renewables are already the cheapest energy sources in most parts of the world, enabling a more competitive and inclusive energy model for all.
Economic development: The energy transition is a catalyst for job creation and reindustrialisation – fostering the creation of new lines of business and industries of the future, contributing to the strengthening of the industrial network and the creation of new jobs linked to the green economy.
Technological innovation: The energy transition drives research and development of new technologies that will enable us to achieve it.
Compliance with international agreements: The transition to a renewables-based energy system is the essential pillar for Spain to meet its international commitments under the Paris Agreement.
Preservation of biodiversity and natural resources: The installation of renewable projects is compatible with the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources.
Energy transition in Spain
In October 2023, Spanish peninsular territory produced for the first time more electricity from renewable sources than the sum of gas, coal and nuclear in a year, as of October 2022. Thus, Spain became the first of the largest European countries to obtain more than half of its electricity from clean sources: only the Scandinavian countries, with high availability of hydroelectric power, and Portugal had achieved this before. This figure shows that the energy transition is progressing by leaps and bounds in this country rich in renewable and clean energy sources such as solar and wind energy.
To achieve this objective, in early 2019, the Strategic Energy and Climate Framework was presented in Spain in line with the commitments of the Paris Agreement and European guidelines. The document is broken down into three fundamental pillars:
The Climate Change and Energy Transition Act. From 2021, it sets quantified greenhouse gas, renewable energy production and energy efficiency targets for 2030. Among other things, it proposes a 23% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 – a penetration of renewable energies in final energy consumption of at least 42% and an electricity system with at least 74% of generation from renewable energies.
The National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030. It defines the measures necessary to achieve the objectives set out in the law.
Just Transition Strategy. It includes instruments to detect and provide economic and employment opportunities for groups, sectors, companies and territories that could be most affected by the decarbonisation process.
The Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge and its responsibilities to drive the energy transition in Spain
The Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITERD), known in its first stage as the Ministry of Environment, was created in Spain in 1996. Its main responsibilities within the government are:
Proposing and implementing the Government's policy on the fight against climate change, pollution prevention, protection of natural heritage, biodiversity, forests, the sea, water and energy for the transition to a more eco-friendly production and social model.
Drafting state legislation on water and coasts, climate change, biodiversity preservation, environment, forestry, meteorology and climatology.
Managing the public water domain of the inter-community basins and the maritime-terrestrial public domain.
Drafting state energy legislation, the development of national energy policy, together with measures aimed at securing energy supply.
Draw up and develop the Government's strategy and policy to cope with the demographic challenge, as well as the proposal and execution of the policy to combat depopulation.
In short, its objective is, among others, to facilitate the energy transition in Spain through the management and development of policies that contribute to making it possible.
How Smart Grids are contributing to Spain's energy transition
The energy transition is not only about generating clean and renewable energy, it is also about ensuring that energy reaches customers. This is where the electricity grids play their role – the circulatory system that allows energy to be transferred to where it is needed. For Iberdrola España, electricity grids are the backbone of the integration of new renewable capacity and play a key role in driving the electrification of the Spanish economy.
Iberdrola España's support for Q-Cero, the alliance for the decarbonisation of thermal demand
In a global context in which climate change is playing an increasingly important role in the decline of biodiversity, more and more actors are joining forces to try to mitigate the use of fossil fuels and boost the use of renewable energies.
In Spain, thermal energy demand still accounts for 40% of final demand. Despite the fact that progress is being made in decarbonisation, the current pace is slower than what is needed to achieve the commitments made in the fight against climate change.
For this reason, Q-Zero, the alliance for the decarbonisation of thermal demand in Spain –, has been created. The initiative, open to all agents, was created as a meeting and dialogue point to accelerate decarbonisation – especially of thermal energy demand in both the industrial and building sectors, and to combat climate change .
This project has the support of Iberdrola España and the participation of more than 40 companies.