• Wind and solar to drive the decarbonisation of the electricity sector
  • New flexibility mechanisms such as battery storage and smart charging for electric vehicles will be essential for an affordable, renewables-powered system in Spain

Renewable energy will meet 68% of Spain’s electricity demand by 2030 and almost 90% in 2050, up from 40% today, according to a report authored by ACCIONA and BloombergNEF (BNEF) presented at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid.

According to the report, wind and solar power will drive the electricity system in 2030, together supplying 51% of generation (33% and 18% respectively), compared with 25% in 2018. By 2050, these two technologies will generate 75% of Spain’s electricity.

The report comes as negotiators from almost 200 countries gather for the COP25 climate change summit in Madrid, against a backdrop of urgent calls to cut emissions and keep the rise in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Spain has ambitious targets for decarbonising its electricity system, but achieving this will require the aid of technologies that help balance supply and demand as more renewable energy is added to the grid.

Spain—a large market with abundant wind and solar resources and few interconnectors to neighbouring countries—will have to build in sufficient flexibility to meet the low-carbon system’s future needs. The Acciona-BNEF report looked at different technologies that can supply this flexibility, including storage batteries, smart electric vehicle chargers that work when demand from other consumers is low, interconnectors to other countries, and gas. The report examined their optimal mix as Spain’s grid adopts increasing volumes of solar and wind.

The report concludes that new forms of flexibility are essential to an affordable, renewables-powered system. Without energy storage and smart-charging electric vehicles among others, the Spanish energy transition risks proceeding on a suboptimal path, with a power system reliant on fossil backup and oversized renewables capacity. This will come at a higher cost and with higher emissions.

Flexible technologies such as battery storage have the dual advantage of integrating larger volumes of renewable generation and displacing fossil backup capacity, reducing Spain’s energy import bill and lowering emissions. Without these new sources of flexibility, the system will be more expensive. A greater reliance on gas for flexibility, for example, would lead to higher system costs, higher emissions and a greater level of back-up capacity.

Electric vehicle flexible charging will also contribute to electrify transport at the lowest cost. The added costs of electrifying road transport, in terms of generating capacity and electricity production, could be halved if vehicles were charged more flexibly. Emission reductions from gasoline and diesel savings more than compensate for increases in the power sector, which, again, are lower with increased charging flexibility.

Battery storage developments could lead to a cheaper, cleaner system, but some fossil capacity will still be needed. If storage costs fall more rapidly than in the base scenario, the system could see 13% less gas back-up capacity, leading to 12% fewer emissions by 2050.