BILBAO, Spain – Spain is close to the EU goal of having the country’s energy produced by renewables and without CO2 emissions by 2020.

“If we manage to get all that renewable energy in the mix, we’re going to reach that goal for sure,” Spanish Wind Energy Association CEO Juan Virgilio Marquez told New Europe in Bilbao, before visiting three sites — Windbox on the Basque mountains, Haizea Wind on the Port of Bilbao, and the Armintza Biscay Marine Energy Platform (BiMEP) off Spain’s dramatic, rocky Atlantic coastline.

Arantza Tapia Otaegi, the Basque Government’s Minister for Economic Development and Infrastructure, said Spain’s balanced budget and economy has allowed Madrid to restart its activities after a long pause giving small grants for renewables.

“Now all the regions in the Spanish area are producing energy coming from renewables and we’re probably going to arrive at the parameters that the European Union has established in Paris,” she told New Europe in Bilbao.

Tapia Otaegi said the Basque Country, a fully autonomous region in the far north of Spain, produces only 7% of its energy from renewables. “We have potential for expansion which is very, very big,” she said. Tapia Otaegi also said the region has to use natural gas as a transition fuel from oil to renewables.

“We have to implement new strategies, new policies on transportation, ships, lorries focused on gas and more on electric vehicles, electric buses,” Tapia Otaegi said. “We have to make a big transition especially in the Basque Country. If we use the electric network, if we use energy, renewables from other regions in Spain and France, which we’re very close to, we use more than 30% of our energy coming from renewables but only producing 7 percent.”

She said wind energy is the primary renewable source in the Basque Country, adding that the region’s electric network – the grid – is prepared to handle the energy transition.

According to the minister the Eusko Legebiltzarra – the regional parliament – has to decide where the new wind farms will be located and will work with the Spanish government to finalise where the they will be installed.

“The population is in favour of wind energy and renewables, of course, but they prefer to have the wind energy and wind farms in other regions,” Tapia Otaegi said, adding that they have to change perception in the coming years. “We need more renewables. We have to produce renewables here.”

Although wind resources in the Basque Country are scarce and the installed capacity certainly is low (around 150MW), the region has developed a powerful industrial network in the wind sector with the help of Iberdrola and Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, with significant participation in developing the technology and the wind energy market with more than 22GW installed in Spain alone.

Tapia Otaegi acknowledged that the Basque country is a low producer of renewable energy compared to other Spanish regions. “But in terms of industry, related to wind energy, we’re in a very good position. We have a very good industry, a very competitive industry; but we don’t have wind farms so have to start establishing locations to have wind farms at the same time,” she said.

Marquez agreed with Tapia Otaegi that the Basque country is currently not a Spanish region with very little installed wind power.

“Nowadays, in Spain, the number one region (for wind energy) is Castilla y Leon, followed by Castilla y La Mancha, Galicia, and Andalusia,” he said. “But they are pushing for more because they have to activate new wind farms in a short time as a compromise. Minister Tapia has two years to realise the potential of the wind energy in the region and she is fully committed to it. Nowadays the power of Basque Country is more focused on the industry.”

The Basque Country represents one of the largest industrial concentrations in Europe with a high level of technological intensity and in particular, a long tradition in the wind energy sector, making it one of the regions with the highest concentration of companies per km2 in the world.

“I think this region has big potential to improve the industrial capacity in the future, to serve the different wind farms that are going to be needed in Spain to comply with the 2030 objectives,” Marquez said.

The huge propellers on the docks of Bilbao’s vast port are proof of the Basque Country’s future prospects.

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