Last 16th December was historic for the Spanish electrical system. The decline of coal in the production of electricity is becoming increasingly evident, with power companies announcing one after another the closure of their thermal plants or the intention to do it very soon, and with the production of plants being less and less relevant. But on December the 16th, for the first time in history, all the electricity generation in Spain was carried out without any coal.

None of the peninsular power stations, none, was turned on that day. The production was exactly zero, according to the records of Red Eléctrica de España, the operator of the electrical system and manager of the entire high voltage network. And the coal production was also close to zero, but finally a small production finally entered the adjustment services at the last minute.

That the coal power plants produced absolutely nothing had never happened before since there are daily records of all national electricity production. The records began operating almost three decades ago, in the early 1990s.  Previously, the production records are only annual, adding all the data for the entire year, as nuanced from the Electricity Network itself, so it cannot be determined with total safety and in an official way that there has been no day without any coal production. 

However, several sources in the electricity sector rule out that this circumstance could be registered in the 1980s and earlier, when coal had a primary role in national electricity production. Since the commissioning of the first coal-fired power plant in Spain in 1949, on December was the first full day that thermal plants did not contribute any electricity to the system.

Drop of 68% of coal use this year

Zero of coal production has been recorded only in mainland Spain. But the peninsular electricity system concentrates almost 95% of the total electricity generation in Spain. The historic weekend in Balearic Islands, which due to its particular characteristics of insularity operates partially independently, it did continue to use its coal plants to use a part of its electricity generation.

So far this year, in the peninsular Spain there has been a total of 10,600 gigawatt hours (GWh), which represents a collapse of 68% compared to last year. During 2019, coal production is heading towards its historical minimum. Also in the Balearic Islands, where the fall of the generation with this fossil fuel accumulates a fall of more than 15% so far this year.

To the closures of several coal-fired power plants and the increase in CO2 emission rights, the highest production of renewable energies and the rise of natural gas price have added as factors of the carbon stop down, which has triggered the use of combined cycle plants.

Centrals closures' avalanche

Coal plants have entered an unstoppable decline in Spain. Iberdrola already announced two years ago the beginning of the procedures to close its last two thermal power plants in Lada (Asturias) and Velilla (Palencia). Naturgy, after closing the Anllares, confirmed at the beginning of this year the closure of the Meirama (A Coruña), Narcea (Asturias) and La Robla (León) plants.

And Endesa already planned to close the Compostilla (León) and Andorra (Teruel) plants next year, but has also decided to advance the closure by 2022 of its last two plants, those of Litoral (Almería) and As Pontes (A Coruña). Endesa, in parallel, intends to initiate the closure of two of the Es Murterar groups, in Mallorca, and the remaining two will continue until the second electric cable that will connect the island to the Peninsula works fully.

After the avalanche of closures, in principle, the Peninsula will be left with only three coal-fired power plants in the fortnight that were operational last year. EDP ​​intends to keep the Aboño and Soto de la Ribera plants operational, both in Asturias, and Viesgo will continue to produce with the Los Barrios plant in Cádiz.

Source: El Independiente