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    Drought and wind energy bottleneck lower electricity production in Galicia to a 25-year low

    January 19, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      The Xunta deactivated the alert for prolonged drought in the Galicia-Costa hydrographic demarcation on January 10. Some of the rivers reached normal levels weeks before, but the situation in the Ulla river and the Arousa estuary, the Tambre, the Mero, the estuary of A Coruña and Arteixo, the Mandeo in Betanzos, the Eume, the estuary of Ares and Ferrol was still worrying. The water reserve in the reservoirs already exceeds 90%, the highest of all the basins of the country, according to the latest bulletin published by the Ministry for Ecological Transition last Tuesday, in the middle of the visit of the Fien and Gerard squalls with another important batch of storms and snow at low altitudes after the heavy rains in December in the community, 60% more than normal.

      The pictures of mountains and inland towns dyed white and many rivers overflowed now contrast with the eleven long months in check for Augas de Galicia. There were critical moments that forced to reduce the supply of large industries such as Ence cellulose in Pontevedra and the electric skeleton was also left without one of its main sources of production, just when it was most needed to mitigate the skyrocketing gas prices.

      Electricity generation in Galicia fell in 2022 to a 25-year low. It reached 22,415 gigawatt hours (GWh), 7.4% below the previous year, as reflected in the balance sheet just updated by Red Eléctrica de España, of the Redeia Group, the system operator. There was a clear downward trend after the expulsion of coal from the market due to its very high raw material costs and carbon dioxide emission rights, and the pandemic was the straw that broke the camel's back due to the plummeting demand from industries and households during the confinement. The drought exacerbated the cutback. The contribution from hydropower fell by half, some 4,137 GWh, something not seen since 2017. Water plants accounted for 32% of production in 2021 and 18% in 2022.

      In other communities with high renewable potential, the increase in green power counterbalanced the lack of rainfall and lower wind, two phenomena that usually go hand in hand. This was not the case in Galicia. There are 3,879 megawatts (MW) of wind power in operation, only 8 more than in 2021.

      Wind power paralysis

      Since the ignition in 2019 of the facilities linked to the first renewable auctions of the central government -almost 400 MW-, there was hardly any expansion of power. That is also why the contribution of wind farms to Galicia's generation mix in 2022 only increased by 1.7%, to 9,719 GWh, revalidating, even so, the leadership among all technologies for the fourth consecutive year. As FARO advanced, the Xunta has issued in the last two months as many wind project impact reports as in the previous six years (36 with favorable opinion) in view of the expiration of the access and connection permits for dozens of facilities on the 25th.

      With hydroelectric plants half paralyzed and wind without adding new farms, renewable generation fell back by nearly 20% in the community, from a share of 74.2% in 2021 to 64.8% last year. The partial reactivation of the As Pontes thermal power plant to mitigate the effects of the energy crisis on the electricity bill doubled coal production, although its presence is still very limited (3.8% of the total). Gas does climb positions. Combined cycles became the second source of electricity in Galicia after an increase of 37%, with 5,062 GWh. "The strong upturn in the burning of fossil energy caused a considerable increase in greenhouse gases linked to the sector, interrupting the downward trajectory initiated in 2018," as the Observatorio Galego da Acción Climática recalls in its analysis on the evolution of the Galician electricity system. The entity estimates that emissions will be around 3.5 million, "which would mean an increase of around 30% with respect to 2021".

      The other autonomous region with a large electricity production capacity to which the drought took its toll was Castilla y León. Its fall stood at 14.4%. In the country as a whole, generation grew by 6.3%. In a first preview of results at the end of December, Red Eléctrica assumed that both wind and photovoltaic would close the year "breaking their own records", with increases of 1% and 33%, respectively. "This evolution reinforces Spain's position as the renewable engine of the EU. The path of the ecological transition is the only possible way for a strong and autonomous electricity union," says its president, Beatriz Corredor.

      The TSXG paralyzes the authorization of another Greenalia wind farm

      The Superior Court of Justice of Galicia (TSXG) has accepted the request for the suspension of the dismissal of the appeal against the resolution of the General Directorate of Energy Planning and Natural Resources by which Greenalia was granted the previous administrative authorizations and the construction of the wind farm Monte Toural, in the municipalities of Coristanco and Santa Comba (A Coruña), as it happened with those of Campelo and Bustelo. The Chamber points to the "clear" existence of an ecological habitat that "with certainty" will be affected by the works of the facilities.


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