In 2018, Spain announced its goals of deriving 75% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, and by 2050, increasing this renewable energy reliance to 100%. Within two years, Spain rethought its entire energy consumption pattern and transitioned to generating 43.6% of its energy renewably by 2020. Along with producing more sustainable and efficient energy, renewable energy in Spain also helps reduce poverty throughout the country.
5 Ways Renewable Energy in Spain Reduces Poverty
- Providing Clean Energy Jobs. In 2018, Spain made its first step toward renewable energy by closing coal mines and redirecting mining employees to clean energy jobs. Former coal mine employees were re-trained for jobs focusing on solar and wind power. The construction of renewable plants is providing jobs as well. By 2019, the switch to renewable energy in Spain created approximately 90,000 jobs in the sector. Enel Green Power’s Totana Solar Plant gave preference for employment to locals and provided training for the unemployed. The shutdown of coal mines did not bring about hardship to the country as new jobs were created through the transition to renewable energy, benefiting the entire nation.
- Lowering Energy Prices. Typically, renewable energy is more costly than conventional energy because it involves far less production. However, with the increased demand for renewable energy in Spain, renewable energy prices are dropping. Renewable energy also saves money in the long term due to its efficiency and sustainability. Experts estimate that the switch to renewable energy will save the average household €210 per year.
- Renewable Energy Tax Reform. Spain also uses taxes as an incentive to push renewable energy. Specifically, in 2019, Spain dropped its “sun tax,” which charged for self-consumption of solar energy and sharing of solar power. The sun tax made sustainable energy more expensive, essentially serving as a barrier in the renewable energy transition.
- Helping Economic Growth. As with the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic hurt Spain’s economy considerably. Spain’s economy contracted by 11% in 2020, “the biggest contraction since the days of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.” Furthermore, the unemployment rate reached 16.1%, affecting tourism-dependent industries the most. In the wake of the economic consequences of COVID-19, renewable energy provides a way to stimulate the economy. In September 2020, Spain allocated €181 million to renewable energy in order to increase jobs, investment and affordable electricity access. As such, renewable energy is part of COVID-19 relief in Spain and will help repair the economy.
- Reducing Energy Poverty. Overall, energy poverty impacts “between 3.5 and 8.1 million citizens” in Spain. The definition of energy poverty is a lack of “access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy.” Energy poverty can occur because of the inability to afford energy or because of the lack of energy availability in certain areas. With renewable energy replacing conventional energy, however, energy is not only becoming more affordable but the efficiency of renewable power makes it more widely available.
Looking to the Future
Spain’s new energy plan has greatly contributed to the decrease in both carbon emissions and poverty. Currently, the country is inching closer to the 50% mark of renewable energy reliance. The Spanish nation is following its plan closely and is set to achieve zero emissions by 2050.
– Maddie Rhodes