Renewable energies are the future for decarbonising the economy and a strategic pillar of the European Union. These form the basis of energy transition, and the topic was debated by Applus+, together with leading companies in the sector at the Third Renewables Forum of the business daily El Economista, held at the Villamagna Hotel in Madrid.
Sergio Merelo, Director of Renewables at the Applus+ Group, joined the discussion on how the industry will manage the growth of renewables, along with Enrique Pedrosa, Chief Operating Officer for Europe and LATAM from Repsol's Low Carbon Generation, Marc Gómez, CEO of Magnon Green Energy, Fernando Romero, CEO of EiDF Solar, and Carlos Reyero, General Manager of Forestalia.
All of the participants agreed that renewables are a global macro-trend, although they highlighted the volatility in the market due to investor appetite and the political and economic situation. In order to advance in the fulfilment of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), the cooperation of all market players will be necessary.
The participants also agreed on the need for Spain to achieve energy independence from overseas, which will involve improving processes to maintain investor appetite and accelerate the development of projects. They spoke of the importance of locating energy generation close to the consumer, as self-consumption is a growing trend.
"Self-consumption is here to stay. The end-user is one of the key axes of the energy transition, and regulation must continue to help empower consumers. One of the turning points has been the repeal of Spain’s so-called 'sun tax’ in 2018. The maturity of the technologies and economies of scale have helped to lower the cost of this type of installation, saving the short-term situation, and now the return-on-investment is more attractive, especially with current electricity prices," said Merelo.
Sergio Merelo also spoke about the role that hybridisation will play in energy transition because delivery takes advantage of existing infrastructures, simplifies administrative procedures, and provides more guarantees in supply. Furthermore, hybridisation improves CAPEX and OPEX costs and the load factor, helping to reduce resource variability and improve generation management. In addition, green hydrogen plants will need renewable sources to feed them continuously, and due to their complexity and production cost, these plants will require the use of hybrid solutions. This represents a new solution, not only for existing installations, but also for future ones,” he said.
Participants further identified that green hydrogen is currently very expensive to produce and requires substantial investments. "There is a clear roadmap, and it is a vector with a future, but we are only at the beginning of a development that could take 30 years. In the first 10 years, we must try to make green hydrogen profitable to produce where it’s already being used, such as in the petrochemical industry, to develop it industrially in a second stage. And in a third step, to deploy green hydrogen for other uses where development for the entire value chain will be necessary, such as in transportation or the tertiary sector," says Merelo.
As regards to workforce, all participants agreed there is always a need for more talent. There is a shortage of specialised profiles, which generates cost overruns in workforce supply that cannot always be passed on at the sale price. As renewables are long-term projects, the key is to attract, train and retain young talent. Another solution, which is also a sustainable practice, is to incorporate more women into the sector in what is still male-dominated.
Representatives from Naturgy, Iberdrola, Greenalia, EDPR, X-Elio and Engie sat on the first roundtable to discuss what is needed to speed up the implementation of renewables in Spain. The speakers highlighted the role of the public administrations, since the great challenge is the administrative procedures. The administration will need to be streamlined to speed up and simplify permits, especially those for access and connection. Digitalisation plays a key role in this field to improve administrative interaction, although the outsourcing of processes will also play a part.