Chinese interest in Spain’s renewable energy

by Deborah Cater
Chinese interest in Spain solar energy increasing
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MADRID – Chinese state-owned companies seem to be expanding into Spanish and Portuguese solar farms. Chinese interest in Spain may already be above the EU standard of 5% market share in renewable energy.

According to an article in the  Dutch financial newspaper FD on 7th April, there is little debate in Spain itself, despite the EU being concerned about Chinese activities in strategic Spanish sectors. This contradicts the attention investments of Chinese state-owned companies in Central and Eastern Europe are attracting.

The energy company CTG from China bought €1billion worth of interest in the Spanish renewable energy market in barely a year. Then there is the state-owned company Shanghai Electric that, together with Eland Private Equity, invested €700million in solar parks.

Spanish authorities seem to find the Chinese investments desirable, according to Mario Esteban, member of think tank Real Instituto Elcano in Madrid. This is a logical consequence of Spain’s desire to achieve the European climate goals in terms of sustainable energy consumption and of the large amount of sun and wind that can be used in the country.

Screening

It is true that Madrid screens foreign investments in strategic sectors (solar, wind and telecom). This is due to the requirement in accordance with EU rules, for permission to be granted by the Spanish authorities since March. Especially when those investments come from foreign state-owned companies.

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‘Worrying lack of information’ in the Spanish media

There is a “worrying lack of information” in the Spanish media about CTG, according to analysts quoted by FD. They also wonder how the recent deals relate to the (not yet ratified) investment treaty between the EU and China at the end of December.

It states that companies from the People’s Republic may take up a maximum of 5% of the renewable energy market in each EU Member State. The question now is whether Chinese interest in Spain is not above the 5% level. However, there is hardly any political debate about this, say the analysts. At the moment, only the right-wing opposition party Vox is openly critical of it.

Many more plans for solar parks 

More and more solar parks are needed in the fight against climate change. One of the Spanish climate and energy plan goals is to install 39,000 MW of solar panels by 2030. One year after drawing up the plan, the counter was already at 9,071 MW. The Spanish grid operator REE already had a huge mountain of requests for a combined 211,900 MW.

In 2020, 21.4% of energy consumption in Spain came from renewable energy sources. This means the country has generously met the European target of 20% energy consumption from renewable energy. However, it should be noted the achievement was as a result of the corona pandemic.

Without the pandemic, Spain would probably have reached a rate between 19.5% and 19.9% last year. This is evident from an analysis by the Observatory for Energy Transition and Climate Action.

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