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ENERGY

Will Spain experience power blackouts this winter?

The ongoing energy crisis amid the war in Ukraine has caused concern and blackout alerts in some European countries this winter, including in the UK, France, Germany and Finland. But will Spain be affected by these power cuts too?

Will Spain experience power blackouts this winter?
Will Spain experience blackouts this winter? Photo: Munir uz zaman / AFP

People in many European countries are waiting anxiously to find out whether these warnings hold any truth and if they will be able to heat, light their homes and cook this coming winter.

Spain has so far escaped this wave of warnings about possible power outages this winter, protected by its regasification infrastructure, which is different from the rest of Europe.

Together with Portugal, earlier this year Spain came up with an Iberian solution to limit the price of gas in the electricity market, which the EU is now thinking of adopting as well.  

Spain has six regasification plants in operation, built before the energy crisis. In January 2023 the El Musel plant, in Gijón, will also open, after years in hibernation, as a gas store for the rest of the EU.

Currently, the Spanish system has a combined capacity of 1.98 TWh/day, equivalent to 729 TWh/year, more than double the country’s current annual consumption.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, said recently: “There will be no blackouts, no rationing or any of those apocalyptic scenes predicted by the creators of hoaxes.” The coming months “will not be easy”, but no drastic measures will be adopted and no Spanish home will lack energy “to heat, to light up and to cook this winter”, assured Sánchez.

There has been a recent slowdown in gas prices, mainly due the unusually warm start to autumn, meaning less demand for gas for heating.

READ ALSO: Growing concern over unseasonal warm spell in Spain and the rest of Europe 

In October, the price of gas collapsed after months of soaring costs. The Iberian reference (Mibgas) reached close to €20 per megawatt-hour (MWh), a level not seen since before this energy crisis, compared to almost 100 at the beginning of October. 

Could Spain help other countries in Europe?

On October 25th, the European Agency of Energy Regulators (ACER) appealed for solidarity between member countries to maintain electricity and gas flows this winter and warned that “some” of them “face significant challenges that most likely will not be resolved soon.”

The agency said “electricity imports could be essential for everyone” as what happened when Spain had to export gas to France earlier this year when they experienced problems with nuclear power.  

“Options to substitute natural gas are a crucial determinant of the short-term ability of the European Union to adapt to potential supply shortages,” said the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The body, associated with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) talked about the “central role” of electricity in modern life: “Shortages or supply cuts have the potential to cause immense damage and cost billions of Euros a day”. 

The EU called on its member countries to reduce their gas consumption by 15 percent compared to the average of the last five years, between August 2022 and March 2023, but Spain was only called on to reduce its consumption by 7 percent.

Minor blackout alerts have also been issued in Ireland, Greece, Switzerland and Norway, as well as outside Europe in the United States and Japan.  

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ENERGY

‘It’s a joke’: Spain slams EU gas price cap

The Spanish government on Wednesday lambasted the European Commission's proposed price cap on wholesale natural gas, set so high that critics have questioned if it would ever be used.

'It's a joke': Spain slams EU gas price cap

The EU executive on Tuesday unveiled a gas “safety ceiling” of €275 per megawatt hour as the bloc grapples with high energy prices spurred by Moscow’s war in Ukraine and supply cuts.

But the conditions meant the cap would only kick in when EU gas prices breach that threshold for two weeks running, calculated on advance purchases through the bloc’s main gas price benchmark, TTF.

The cap was also contingent on the TTF price for liquefied natural gas – an easily transportable form of gas that can be shipped worldwide — exceeding €58 for 10 days within that same two-week period.

The only time the TTF gas price has gone above the €275 limit was between August 22nd and 29th this year.

It was running at around €120 in trading on Tuesday.

Spanish ecological transition minister Teresa Ribera called the commission’s proposal a “joke”, saying it would cause steeper price hikes and hamper efforts to tame decades-high inflation.

The French energy transition ministry criticised an “insufficient” scheme that “does not respond to the reality of the market”.

“The commission must propose an operational text, not simply a text that is political grandstanding and may have negative or no effects,” it said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has also expressed his opposition to the plan, with Ribera saying most EU members were against it as the bloc’s energy ministers prepare to meet on Thursday.

Spain could stop supporting other proposals on matters important to the commission if another “serious” text is not forthcoming, Ribera added.

A commission spokeswoman said the mechanism was designed “to anticipate and prevent this situation happening in the future”, but admitted even August’s price spike would not have triggered it.

The cap, if adopted, would come into force in January and came after months of wrangling between EU countries.

It runs alongside a plan by member states to voluntarily cut natural gas use by 15 percent over the northern hemisphere winter.

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