Economics for energy in Spain: Xavier Labandeira says, “We’re well on our way.”


On October 30, 2013, Xavier Labandeira, professor of the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Vigo and Director of Economics of Energy, presented a lecture at ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. Labandeira discussed Spanish policies to promote renewable energy and assessed their effectiveness within a wider energy public-policy context.

Labandeira first gave a picture of Spain’s reasons for renewable energy development. He explained that Spain’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were 15% higher in the early 2000s from 1990. Implementation of the EU's Integrated Energy and Climate Change Package from the year 2007 greatly helped decrease that level by presenting three key targets, known as the “20-20-20” targets, for 2020.

  1. A 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels
  2. Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%
  3. A 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency

Spain also developed green certificates, feed-in tariffs (FIT), and created a market for wind and solar. Spain experienced a balanced and consistent growth with wind energy. The country also experienced successes in solar PV development. In 2008, Spain held the title of the world’s highest capacity and most efficient solar PV plant. “Spain was an early achiever in renewable energy promotion,” Labandeira said.

Although generally optimistic, Labandeira did recognize the criticism Spain received on their feed-in-tariffs program. Labandeira explained that problems were created by the difficulties to transmit costs to consumers during an economic crisis. Still, there is hope for the future as Labandeira pointed out lessons learned. He ultimately believes implementing stable renewable energy policies will keep Spain from another large imbalance and boom and bust episode. He said that Spain’s overall interest in energy dependence, industrial development, and environmental benefits will push renewable energy policy forward. Below is a video of Labandeira and his colleague Klaas Würzburg discussing the relationship between economics and the environment, as part of their research in Europe and Spain.

Labandeira works on transmitting useful energy research to Spanish society through Economics for Energy, a private research center that specializes in the analysis of current and complex energy issues. Economics for Energy transfers knowledge through reports and organization of seminars and workshops to engage representatives of companies, institutions, and academics. Arizona State University has a similar program called the Energy Policy and Innovation Council (EPIC). EPIC aims to inform and educate policymakers on energy policy issues to advance Arizona’s energy industry potential. These research centers are important to creating clean energy policies that will work for our world today and into the future.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Photo of Xavier Labandeira retrieved from Labandeira’s personal Twitter account.