Spain produces 40% of its electricity with gas due to the nuclear stop

The shutdown of three nuclear power plants simultaneously It is turning upside down the counterweight game of electricity generation in Spain and is doing so in the midst of a spiral of energy price rises. The work for the refueling of these nuclear plants had been scheduled well in advance and with the aim that the three paralyzed plants did not coincide at any time, but for a few days the stops would overlap.

The delay in the work of recharging Ascó I (Tarragona), which should have finished last Saturday but which will last until Thursday, will make its stop also coincide with that of Chests (Valencia) and with Almaraz I (Cáceres) for at least three or four days this week.

The nuclear stoppage is not translating into a surge in the Electricity prices, which have remained relatively stable, but persistently above 200 euros per megawatt hour (MWh). But the lack of some 3,500 MW of nuclear power in operation is causing electricity generation from gas plants to skyrocket to replace all that lost production.

During the last days, the weight of electricity production by burning gas has not only become the main source of generation of the mix national, but has shot up to almost 40% of total production in Spain, according to the daily records of Red Eléctrica (REE), the operator of the electrical system.

Last Monday – last day with the records updated at the close of this edition – the production of electricity by the combined cycle power plants (natural gas) accounted for 39.5% of all electricity generation in the country, compared to 22% for wind farms or only 13% for nuclear plants. In the previous days, the weight of gas in electricity generation ranged between 38 and 41% of total production.

The weight of burning gas to produce electricity has skyrocketed in recent days. 40% of combined cycle production is well above the 25% that these plants focus so far in November and the 14% they have accumulated since the start of 2021. The spiral of increases in the price of electricity registered in recent months Its main causes are precisely the increase in the international price of natural gas (at historical highs and which has reached over 100 euros per MWh on several occasions) and CO2 emission rights (in record standing above 60 euros per ton).


Despite the coal power plants The days are numbered in Spain -the electricity companies have already closed or have requested authorization from the Government to be able to close all the country’s coal plants except two-, the burning of coal has been rising for three months in Spain due to the situation of high prices of the gas and electricity. After years of decline, active coal plants have broken the trend and increased their production by 69% in September; the more than doubled in October (+ 124%); and they have increased it by 80% so far in November.

While they wait for the administrative ok to close, the companies are obliged to continue to have their plants available and to present offers to the electricity market to produce if necessary. AND with the electricity market turned upside down and with exorbitant prices of natural gas, the thermal power plants that were already preparing to close only in recent months are boosting their production and are pushing Spain to increase coal burning.

Still available for the electricity market are the Endesa plants in As Pontes (A Coruña) and until just a few weeks ago also that of Litoral (Almería); the Viesgo de Los Barrios plant (Cádiz); and the Asturian plants of EDP de Aboño and Soto de Ribera. The weight of coal continues to be much lower in Spanish electricity generation as a whole and has continued to decline in recent years: in 2019 coal plants contributed 4.3% of electricity, in 2020 it was only 2% and until August of this year its weight had dropped to 1.6%. In recent months, it has grown unexpectedly, with contributions between 2.4% and 2.8%.

Endesa has reactivated its As Pontes coal plant in A Coruña this week, as announced The Newspaper of Spain. This year, the electricity company had to start it up in February and July, but in the summer it had problems in its operation and was forced to stop it to carry out conditioning work.

Finished the works, Endesa has activated one of the four production groups of the plant and the current market situation has caused the plant to enter the market this week and is burning coal again. Endesa has bought 140,000 tons of coal in recent weeks to meet the production that it will have to face with As Pontes in the coming months (in addition to the 40,000 tons it had in reserve).


The average price of electricity in the wholesale market (known as pool) will add this Wednesday its seventh consecutive day above the level of 200 euros per megawatt hour (MWh). Despite fears that the stoppage of three nuclear power plants could cause a new wave of record prices, the price has remained relatively stable in recent days. Stable but tall.

The average price for this Wednesday will be 225.70 euros / MWh, just 0.05% more than the previous day, according to data from the Iberian Electricity Market Operator (OMIE). Compared to 2020, this Wednesday’s price will multiply by almost five the 46.68 euros / MWh that the electricity market reached on average the same day a year ago, Ep reports.

So far this month of November, the wholesale market registers an average of about 185 euros / MWh, about 15 euros less than the 200 euros / MWh of October, but four times more than the 41.94 euros / MWh of November 2020. The prices of the pool They have a direct impact on the regulated tariff -the so-called PVPC-, to which almost 11 million consumers in the country are welcomed, and serves as a reference for part of the other 17 million that have contracted their supply in the free market.


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