Spain's Wind Energy Industry Breaks Record
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We'll begin NPR's business news starts with strong winds in Spain.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREENE: Spain has a pretty good location in the south of Europe. They are accustomed to good weather, plenty of sunshine, clear skies and wind - which the country is putting to good use. Spain has become a leader in renewable energy.
In fact, the countries wind farms have broken a new record, as Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.
(SOUNDBITE OF WIND TURNING TURBINES ON PLAINS SOUTH OF MADRID)
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: High-tech wind turbines now dot these plains where Don Quixote's windmills once stood. Spanish winters are windy, and since November these wind farms have made history. Their electricity output has topped that of coal, nuclear and solar energy for the first time.
HEIKKI WILLSTEDT: This is a real - an incredible feat.
FRAYER: Heikki Willstedt, with the Spanish Wind Power Association, says 26 percent of Spain's electricity for the past 100 days has come from wind. Excluding heavy industry, that's enough to power every household in Spain and cut back on fossil fuels, too.
WILLSTEDT: In the last 100 days, Spain has taken out from the wind the equivalent of 31 million barrels of oil.
FRAYER: But the achievement is bittersweet, because a week ago the government cut subsidies for wind power.
Energy economist Gonzalo Escribano says the reform levies a new seven percent tax across the board.
GONZALO ESCRIBANO: It's not an environmental reform, because they are not taxing more carbon-intensive energies. They are charging all of them the same.
FRAYER: Shares in Spanish wind companies have plummeted. And Willstedt, with the Spanish Wind Power Association, worries that some renewable energy companies might cut their losses and leave Spain altogether.
WILLSTEDT: Something like 30 billion U.S. dollars invested in this sector. So these kind of measures destroy this value, and destroy investor confidence.
FRAYER: Wind power is almost at the point where it's profitable without government subsidies. And Escribano, the economist, says one thing is certain.
ESCRIBANO: We don't know if there will be any more shale gas in 40 years time. We don't know if Saudi Arabia will remain as an oil exporter. But what I can tell you is that in 100, 200, whenever - well, it depends on climate change, for sure - we'll still have sun and wind.
FRAYER: For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.