Cablegate: Opportunities in Spain's Growing Energy Market

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 2003 MADRID 1079

1. SUMMARY: Since joining the EU in 1986, Spain has
experienced dramatic industrialization and economic
development. Along with development, energy consumption has
skyrocketed and shows no sign of abating. These developments
bring challenges for a country that is now emitting
greenhouse gasses more than its Kyoto commitments permit, and
exceeding EU pollution emissions limits. Spain has an
ambitious but likely untenable plan for meeting the EU
requirement to supply 12 percent of its energy needs through
renewables by 2010, and will increasingly rely on natural gas
imports as a relatively clean and inexpensive energy source.
There are opportunities for US business to enter the Spanish
energy market in such areas as gas, combined cycle generation
and renewables, although experience to date suggests it may
be advantageous to start small and learn the ropes, meet
niche market demand, or enter into joint ventures with local
companies rather than go it alone. END SUMMARY.

2. Spain's economy continues to be one of the most dynamic
in the European Union, growing an average of 3.5 percent over
the past six years. Spain's demand for energy has grown even
faster at an average rate of 4.5 percent per year between
1998 and 2002, with electrical demand increasing at a
particularly rapid rate of 6 percent per year. Growth in
total energy demand is expected continue at 3.5 percent
annually over the next decade. Spain is attempting to
increase capacity to meet current and future demand through a
combination of sources, including new natural gas pipelines
from Africa and construction of combined-cycle electric
generation facilities, while attempting to mitigate emissions
increases through significant investment in alternative
energy sources, especially wind power.

Following is an overview of the energy market and suggestions
for U.S. companies wishing to take advantage of significant


3. Spain is implementing deregulation faster than most other
EU countries. Spain has adopted legislation to allow
third-party access to the power network, and scheduled full
liberalization of the energy market through various phases by
2013. So far, the primary benefit of liberalization is
consumer choice among energy providers. To date, price-based
competition has been minimal.

4. Under a June 2000 law, Spain commenced separation of
transmission, generation and distribution functions, and
opened the energy grid to other suppliers several years
before EU initiatives began forcing changes. The oil,
natural gas, and electricity markets have been key
liberalization targets during the Aznar administration. In
the petroleum market, former government-owned Repsol was
privatized in 1997 and is now Repsol-YPF (following a merger
with Argentine company YPF). It has reduced ownership from
62% to around 26% in Compania Logistica de Hidrocarburos
(CLH), the petroleum distribution company. In natural gas,
the market for industrial customers was partially opened in
2000, and in 2002 the dominant conglomerate, Gas Natural
Group, reduced its interest from 100% to 35% in the
distribution company, Enegas. Spain's largest electricity
utility, Endesa, was privatized in June 1998. Customers may
now select their electricity supplier, and Spain has recently
signed a pact with Portugal to form a single power market.
As liberalization continues, and competitive forces
strengthen in the energy sector, US business may find a
myriad of opportunities for penetrating the Spanish energy


5. By 2010, the International Energy Association (IEA)
anticipates that over 24 percent of Spain's electricity will
be generated from natural gas. This is up from 9.2 percent
in 1999, and only one percent in 1990. In 2003, natural gas
accounted for 14% of the energy consumed in Spain. In real
terms, natural gas consumption is skyrocketing, with around
1.7 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) used in 1985, 10
Mtoe in 1999, and 13.5 Mtoe expected for 2010.

6. Although virtually all natural gas must be imported, its
increased use may enable Spain to reduce its greenhouse gas
emissions. Spain has historically imported its natural gas
from Algeria and Norway. Libya has also been an important
source. Nigeria and Trinidad & Tobago are becoming major

7. The Pedro Duran Farell pipeline connects Algerian natural
gas supplies with the Iberian Peninsula, passing through
Morocco and into Spain via the Strait of Gibraltar. Spain is
also connected to European supplies through the
Lacq-Calahorra pipeline that runs from France. The planned
MEDGAZ pipeline will link the Algerian supply directly with
Spain. MEDGAZ partners include Sonatrach (Algeria's national
oil company), Spanish companies CEPSA, ENDESA, and Iberdrola,
BP, TOTAL, and Gaz de France. With the new pipeline, imports
from Algeria are projected to supply 60% of Spain's natural
gas demand, but given the supply diversification strategies
of the major players, this will actually signify a reduction
in Algeria's share of the market.

8. Gas Natural is the leading natural gas conglomerate in
Spain. During the first quarter of 2002, Gas Natural
maintained a 72 percent share of the liberalized gas market
and gained a 4 percent share of the electricity market.

9. The US company AES, after years of regulatory delays, is
constructing a 400 MW combined cycle facility in Cartegena,
which is estimated to contribute over 500 jobs and more than
$1 billion to the local economy.


10. Oil plays a vital but decreasing role in Spain. The IEA
estimates that by 2010, only 7.6 percent of electricity will
be generated from oil, down from 11.8 percent in 1999.
Industrial and residential demand for oil is predicted to
remain level while demand from the transportation industry
will continue to grow for several years before leveling off.

11. The petroleum market is dominated by
vertically-integrated REPSOL-YPF which provides over 50% of
Spain's petroleum, although Cepsa and BP have significant
interests as well. Almost all oil is imported, with Nigeria,
Libya, Saudi Arabia and Algeria being primary sources.
Repsol-YPF also continues to invest heavily overseas. In the
last year, Repsol-YPF has announced major new projects in
Venezuela, Iran and Libya, in addition to its enormous
investment in Argentina.


12. The IEA estimates that by 2010, 24.4 percent of Spain's
electricity will be generated from nuclear energy. This is
down from 28.5 in 1999 and 35.9 in 1990. Majority or total
ownership of all nine nuclear facilities is held by large
Spanish energy companies Union Fenosa, Iberdrola, and Endesa.
The plants, built from 1971-1988, have the capacity to
generate 7,897 megavolts.

13. A political moratorium on construction of new nuclear
power plants was established in 1984 under the Socialist
government, and not challenged by the current center-right
government. The government plans to maintain the number of
licenses until 2012, and will only close individual plants if
they outlive their usefulness. However, because of Kyoto
commitments, some believe the GOS may move towards a new
program if the incumbent Popular Party carries the March 2004
general elections. The opposition PSOE has called for a
formal nuclear moratorium within five years. The Spanish
public is not mobilized against nuclear energy, although
groups such as Greenpeace have occasionally "tested" NPP
security measures by trying to breach facilities and have
protested against alleged safety deficiencies.


14. The leading producers of hard coal in Spain are
state-owned Hunosa and privatized Encasur, while Endesa is
the leading producer of lignite. The United States is a
major exporter of coal to Spain. The IEA estimates that by
2010, 14.2 percent of Spain's electricity will be generated
from coal, down from 36.6 percent in 1999 and 40.1 percent in
1990. However, in real terms, coal consumption is expected
to increase slightly over the next few years, before leveling

15. Spain's coal costs far more than current world market
prices. A traditionally protected industry, some energy
experts claim that Spain could save money by eliminating
subsidies, shutting down the mines, and giving all current
miners lifelong pensions. But political factors would make a
total shutdown difficult. Coal production has been a
significant industry in the northern coal-producing regions
of the country, which are suffering from high unemployment.
Rather than cutting production drastically and facing
radically higher unemployment, Spain has initiated a program
to wean domestic coal mining from subsidies and face world
market conditions.


16. According to the IEA, 14.7 percent of Spain's
electricity will be generated from hydropower by 2010.
Although it is anticipated that hydropower will produce 50%
more power in 2010 than in 1999, its proportional share of
total energy transformation to electricity will increase only
3.6% largely due to the anticipated stronger increase in
utilization of natural gas.

17. Large-scale hydroelectric production is expected to
decrease from 2.645 Mtoe in 1998 to 2.121 Mtoe in 2010.
Recouping that loss will be small scale hydro (less than 10
megawatts (MW)) production growing from 0.482 Mtoe to 0.594
Mtoe, and 10 to 50 MW hydro facilities contributing 0.542
Mtoe. The large hydropower plants are owned by Iberdrola,
Endesa, Union Fenosa, Hidrocantabrico and Viesgo (affiliated
with Italy's Enel). These same companies own many smaller
facilities as well. Local engineering and construction
company consortiums also build and operate small facilities.

18. Sunny, mountainous Spain is a prime prospect for wind
and solar power generation. As technology progresses and
provides less expensive means of harnessing the power of the
wind and the sun, Spain may use these power sources to great
advantage as it seeks to reduce emissions.

19. Significant financial incentives, primarily sourced
through EU cohesion funds, have caused most Spanish energy
companies to develop renewables projects. With approximately
$1.5 billion allocated for environmental purposes, the
central government distributes some funding to the regions
for projects. Along with the funds, the regional and local
governments often provide additional incentives such as tax
benefits and land donation or discount. However, when the
cohesion funds stop in 2007, it remains to be seen how much
additional development will continue.


20. Spain is one of the world's largest wind energy
producers along with the U.S. and Germany. The land of Don
Quixote and his windmills has long used wind for power
generation. But only recently have large-scale efforts begun
to exploit this renewable energy source.

21. At the end of 1998, Spain generated only 800 MW from
wind. That almost doubled in 1999, and in 2003 total
installed wind energy reached 6,202 MW. Plans call for
capacity increase to about 9,000 MW by 2010, and Spain is on
its way to meeting that goal. Regions with the most
installed wind power generation are Galicia, Navarra,
Castilla-La Mancha, Aragon and Asturias.

22. Some energy companies with interests in primary energy
sources have also invested in wind generation facilities,
among them Gamesa (the strongest), Iberdrola and Endesa.
Additionally, smaller generators have emerged and several
foreign developers, including American-owned Global 3 (see
Paragraph 31), have plans to invest in wind power in Spain.


23. Still too expensive to compete with primary energy
sources and wind power, current cost efficiency has not
stopped research efforts or government incentives for small
investment in solar power. CIEMAT, the energy and
environmental research arm of the Ministry of Science and
Technology, has a solar platform research/production facility
in southeastern Spain in the Desert of Tabernas. It was
developed to offer researchers a place where the climatic
conditions are optimal for researching solar power production
such as could be used within the sunbelt.

24. Prosolmed, a group of engineers and economists in the
orange-growing region of Valencia, has taken advantage of
some incentives for small-scale production and is trying to
help city-living small investors get in on the action.
Prosolmed claims that investors can enjoy a rate of return
greater than 10%, and has installed 100 small solar panels,
each occupying 50 square meters. An article likens this
venture to earlier Spanish tree plantation investment
opportunities. According to the article, a secondary market
now exists for these plantation interests, suggesting that
small investment solar opportunities might also be successful
on Spain.

25. Solar energy technology still needs to advance and
become more cost-competitive before it can supply a
significant portion of the country's renewable energy goals.
In 2001, Spain collected only 35 ktep (equivalent to 35,000
tons of oil) of energy generated through solarthermic
installations, and 2 ktep from photovolcaic installations.
Spain's goals by 2010 include generation of 336 ktep from
solarthermic sources, and 19 ktep from photovolcaic


26. Red Elctrica de Espaa (REE) is Spain's electricity
transmission grid and system operator. The GOS owns 28.5
percent of REE, with Endesa, Iberdrola, Union Fenosa and
Hidrocantabrico each holding 10 percent, Viesgo with 1
percent, and the remaining 18 percent and 13 percent held by
institutional investors and small shareholders, respectively.
The government fixes electricity rates on an annual basis.
Only one foreign firm, ESB (of Ireland), currently operates
within the Spanish electrical distribution industry, in the
Basque region.

27. Although deregulation of this market enables consumers
to shop freely for electricity, suppliers are required to
sell at rates set by the government. These mandated rates
have fallen 35 percent since 1997. But the lack of price
competition reduces consumer incentive to change suppliers,
making it difficult for competition to thrive.

28. The recently announced integration of the Spanish and
Portuguese electricity markets into the "Iberian Electricity
Market" will, per Vice President and Economy Minister Rodrigo
Rato, form the fourth largest electricity market in Europe in
terms of power generation capacity, and the second
full-fledged electricity pool after Scandinavia's Nord pool.
The new market will allow consumers to choose any electric
company within the system as a supplier. With this
integration, utility rates should fall; especially in
Portugal where the rates are higher than in Spain.


29. Spain is a difficult market for the foreign energy
investor to successfully enter due to lack of transparency in
bidding and permit processes, as well as the entrenched
status of the incumbent companies. Although GOS regulations
suggest a liberalized market, large Spanish incumbents, many
of which were state-owned monopolies, still control
significant market share and have long-established
relationships with (and the trust of) their regulating
bodies. Additionally, the GOS still holds "golden shares" of
Repsol and Endesa. These shares give veto power over
corporate decisions that the GOS believes would affect
national interest. Spain's dominant energy companies have
significant power and sophistication, with Repsol-YPF,
Iberdrola and Endesa included in the Financial Times 500 List
of top international companies. It is not unusual that a new
market entrant must negotiate for access to its dominant
competitor's distribution network to get its product to
market. Relationships formed in grade school between
regulators and corporate leaders also seem to play a strong
role. (See reftel for more information about Spain's "old
boys" network.)

30. When U.S. companies have attempted to enter the Spanish
market, they have faced significant delays in obtaining
construction and other types of permits, while the Spanish
and some other European companies (from countries who have
permitted Spanish companies to enter their markets) tend to
receive their permits rapidly. While some attribute this to
Spain's tendency to trust its incumbents, others add that
many foreign companies ineffectually attempt to manage
Spanish investment from London offices. Despite
difficulties, several US companies are making progress,
including AES (see Paragraph 9) and Global 3.

31. Global 3 began in Spain in 1997 by building a one
megawatt plant to learn how to work through Spain's
labyrinthine permit processes and to prove that they could
actually become successful on a small scale. Per one of
Global 3's owners, the company has vertically integrated and
owns liquefied natural gas storage facilities and pipelines,
has developed and operates five power plant projects, and
continues developing various energy facilities, including
wind farms. The company attributes its success to its
approach: starting small, learning Spanish methods,
establishing contacts, and building on experience.

32. An alternative approach for penetrating the Spanish
market is filling demand within niche markets. Chiptec
Corp., a Vermont manufacturer of high fuel efficiency biomass
gasification systems, found a Spanish food packing company
who wanted to convert food waste into energy. Chiptec sold
equipment to suit this purpose in an arrangement valued at
over $1 million, and has continued negotiating for more
business in Spain. US companies with products that would
enable Spanish firms to increase efficiency or produce energy
in non-traditional ways have a potential market in Spain.

33. The Spanish energy sector is changing in a primarily
market-driven manner, with natural gas playing a dominant
role in meeting energy needs and wind power playing a role in
Spain's efforts to reach 12 percent of energy consumption
through renewables by 2010. Predicted strong growth will
continue to provide opportunities for U.S. companies, not
only in the traditional energy sectors but also in
renewables. Independent entry strategies into the Spanish
energy market are problematic (but possible) due to permit
processes and generally unavoidable negotiation with
incumbent competitors for necessary services. Importing
energy to Spain's major energy companies for processing and
distribution, establishing joint ventures and partnerships
with Spanish companies, acquiring small-scale on-the-ground
experience, or selling equipment or technology for less
typical energy sources such as biomass, are some of the best
strategies for US companies to successfully enter the Spanish
energy market. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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