The government has set strong decarbonization ambitions through green transition work in its COVID-19 recovery plans and intends to move almost entirely to renewable energy by 2050.
In October 2020, the Spanish government published a national COVID-19 recovery and resilience plan, España Puede (Spain can). Three of its 10 policy levers are partly or fully environmentally focused and 40 percent of its EUR140 billion (USD165 billion) planned public investment, some from EU funding, will be focused on green transition work.1
Ramon Pueyo Viñuales, Partner, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Governance, KPMG in Spain, says the plan’s strong environmental coverage reflects recent political determination to tackle climate change. However, he adds that this has been the subject of polarized opinions in the past and that many initiatives have to be coordinated between the national government and Spain’s powerful regions. Work may be needed to maintain public support, such as through the ‘just transition strategy’ that the country is using to support areas where coal mines have closed.2
Spain plans to use renewables for 97 percent of its energy requirements by 2050, requiring a massive transition away from current heavy use of fossil fuels in favor of solar, wind and energy efficiency. It aims to become a world leader in generating green hydrogen and is working closely with other countries in developing this sector.3 In a recent review, the International Energy Agency said the country has made progress on electricity generation with renewables already providing a large minority of the supply.4 “The energy sector is going in the right direction and there is strong political will, architecture and laws,” says Pueyo.
Spain ranks 12th on the buildings sector, with reasons including use of heat pumps, mandatory building energy certification for new construction and incentives for retrofitting and low-carbon buildings.
The country experienced a construction boom in the 2000s and almost two-thirds of the population live in apartments, one of the highest proportions in the EU.5 But while newer and smaller homes have the potential to use less energy the sector still faces considerable challenges.
Pueyo says that many will need renovation to achieve high levels of efficiency. Housing rehabilitation is included in España Puede as a component of its urban and rural policy area, with plans to upgrade more than 1 million homes.6
Agriculture and fishing are also covered by the national recovery plan as an area for green and digital transformation and Pueyo says there is significant potential for this. On transport, the priority is electrification, demonstrated by Spain’s plans in legislation to increase electric vehicle numbers to 250,000 with 100,000 charging points, although this is an area where most powers are devolved to regional governments. Industry similarly faces a transition to cleaner energy sources.
1 ‘Recovery, transformation and resilience plan: executive summary’, Spanish Presidency, 5 May 2021. https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/temas/fondos-recuperacion/Documents/05052021-Executive_Summary_Recovery_Plan.pdf
2 ‘Spain’s national strategy to transition coal-dependent communities’, World Resources Institute, accessed July 2021. https://www.wri.org/just-transitions/spain
3 'Executive summary', Spanish Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico , October 2020. https://www.miteco.gob.es/images/es/h2executivesummary_tcm30-513831.pdf
4 ‘Spain 2021 energy policy review’, International Energy Agency, May 2021. https://origin.iea.org/reports/spain-2021
5 Jessica Jones, ‘Why flats dominate Spain’s housing market’, BBC, 11 May 2020. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200506-why-do-flats-dominate-spains-housing-market
6 ‘The European Commission approves Spain's Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan’, Spanish Presidency, 16 June 2021. https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/lang/en/presidente/news/paginas/2021/20210616_rtrp-approval.aspx