In the first nine months of 2022, Spain produced 48% less hydroelectricity than in the first three quarters of 2021, according to data from national electricity grid operator REE.
In total, Spain generated just over 13,000 gigawatt hours of hydroelectricity this year, representing just 6.1% of the country’s power generation mix, according to data from REE.
In 2021, hydroelectricity accounted for 11.4% of the country’s energy production, making it the fourth source of energy after wind, nuclear energy and natural gas-fired combined cycle power plants.
But 2022 has been a year of extremes for Spain.
It was the hottest summer and one of the driest three years with water since records began. From October 2021 to October 2022, it rained 26% less than normal, according to the Spanish meteorological agency Aemet.
The timing was anything but good. The war in Ukraine drove up natural gas prices and, at the same time, European nations pledged to reduce their demand for fuel.
And while the EU has cut natural gas consumption by 7% this year – with double-digit drops in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden – Spain has actually increased its natural gas consumption by 2%, according to data from the economic think tank Bruegel.
EU members are on track to deliver on their pledges to cut natural gas demand by 15% by March. But Spain, which has pledged to cut consumption by around 7% given its relative isolation and lack of dependence on Russian fuel, is still struggling.
The scorching temperatures this summer have led to an increase in the demand for electricity. At the same time, the peaking of gas prices in Iberia, the drought and the increase in electricity exports to France have favored the increased use of combined cycle power plants fueled by natural gas.
Meanwhile, for the first year, photovoltaic energy has overtaken hydroelectricity to become the fourth source of electricity in Spain.
This year, solar panels generated 11% of Spain’s electricity, compared to 8.1% last year, 6.1% in 2020 and 3.5% in 2019.
In contrast, wind generation in Spain has remained relatively stable since 2018.
While brutally dry conditions have faced much of Europe this year, the Iberian Peninsula is among the hardest hit, according to S&P Commodity Insights.
Despite this, France saw its hydroelectric production fall by 30% in the first half of the year, while in July solar energy production exceeded hydroelectricity for the first time on the continent, according to the firm. of Fraunhofer ISE studies.
Experts suggest that extremely dry and wet conditions are linked to climate change and that droughts in Spain could become increasingly common.
For now, however, European countries are focusing more on winter.
“We can hope that the winter is not too cold in Europe and that we have a lot of precipitation which brings additional water to the reservoirs”, Anton Schleiss, coordinator of Hydropower Europe, an EU-funded project to develop a roadmap for the industry, S&P told S&P.
If not, he warned, “then we will be in real trouble”.
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