Spain as an energy island: securing through connection

Read this conversation with Alfonso Arroyo Gonzalez, FEDARENE Vice-President for Renewable Energy Sources about the energy transition towards renewables in the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León and the significance of creating a European electricity market through interconnections

Spain as an energy island: securing through connection

The Autonomous Community of Castilla y León is the largest producer of coal in Spain. Coal reserves bring energy security but contribute to climate change – as the regional authority for both energy and mining, how are you navigating the transition from coal towards renewable energy sources?

Castilla y León is leading the energy transition to renewables. Coal mining ceased in 2018 and, after the closure of the thermal generation plants located in the north of the provinces of León and Palencia in 2020, our region is still generating 1.5 times more electricity than it consumes. Moreover, we produce 89% of our electricity through renewable sources. The first Spanish region to install wind energy with over 6.5 GW, we also fostered PV energy through initiatives such as the Regional Table of Self-consumption of Castilla y León. Our presence in FEDARENE with the Vice-Presidency for Renewable Energies helps us to continue along this path.

However, a major challenge is the socio-economic revitalisation of mining areas, where the main economic activity has vanished and the mountainous terrain makes it difficult to attract new investment. In my view, our future lies in taking advantage of other endogenous resources beyond coal: biomass, inland nature and leisure tourism, and promotion of the agri-food sector.

Spain has recently worked to increase its interconnection and transition the Iberian peninsula away from being an energy island. How important is it to create a true European electricity market, especially in the current crisis?

It is essential to make progress in the gas and electricity interconnections between the Iberia and the rest of the EU. Present interconnections are manifestly insufficient. Spain’s capacity to provide energy security and sufficiency to other Member States depends on strengthening these interconnections. The large deployment of renewable energies that is taking place in our country presents an opportunity for the rest of the EU if efforts are focused in this area.

Interconnection and renewable infrastructure contribute to Spanish energy security. What are your region’s objectives when it comes to energy?

Our objective is to continue leading renewable energy production in Spain, with a target of 10 GW of wind energy by 2030. We are also committed to large-scale energy storage projects, such as reversible pumped-storage hydroelectric plants, hydrogen, and even compressed air in our many mining cavities. Our goal is to achieve an effective energy transition that is fair both to the territory and its people. Together with FEDARENE, we recently celebrated the 25th birthday of our Regional Energy Agency (EREN); we hope to celebrate many more years in the company of other Spanish and European regions.

Alfonso Arroyo Gonzalez is FEDARENE’s Vice-President for Renewable Energy Sources. He is also Director of the Castilla y León Regional Energy Agency (EREN).

This interview is part of our publication “Sustainable Regions in Action 2023”. Find out more by clicking here to discover best practices from FEDARENE members as well as an overview of our activities.