Spain has entered the record books as the first country in the world to have wind as its largest energy source.

Figures from Spanish utility Red Electrica de Espana (REE) indicate that wind power accounted for 20.9 per cent of total energy demand in 2013, narrowly edging our nuclear as the biggest supplier of electricity in the country.

Spain’s wind farms generated a record-breaking 54,478 gigawatts of electricity in 2013, for a year-on-year increase of 13.2 per cent.

The Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE) said that these figures firmly places the sun-drenched Mediterranean nation in the record books with respect to utilization of renewable sources of energy.

“Spain is the first country in the world where wind energy was the technology that most contributed to the coverage of demand in a full year,” said AEE in an official statement.

According to figures from AEE, wind energy currently supplies energy to over 10 million households in Spain, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by around 22 million tonnes per annum.

The sector has emerged a major source of succour for Spain’s beleaguered economy, employing over 27,000 people and generating exports worth more than 1.8 billion Euros.

In addition to wind power supplying the largest amount of energy in Spain last year, renewable sources of energy on the whole provided 42.4 per cent of the nation’s energy in 2013, logging a year-on-year gain of 10.5 percentage points. Hydroelectric power supplied 14.4 per cent of Spain’s energy needs in 2013, for a twofold increase compared to 2012, while solar photovoltaic accounted for 3.1 per cent of demand.

Nuclear plants are almost on par with wind power in terms of energy supply, accounting for 20.8 per cent of Spain’s energy needs. Combined-cycle plants supply 9.6 per cent of the country’s power, while coal-fueled plants provided only 14.6 per cent.

Critics have pointed out, however, that the recent surge in Spanish renewable energy usage has been achieved via subsidies which grossly distort the economics of power usage in the country.

Peter Kelly-DetwilerAccording to Peter Kelly-Detwiler, a co-founder of NorthBridge Energy Partners, aggressive subsidies intended to boost renewable energy usage in Spain are about to reach an end, leaving Spain with a large and problematic “electricity deficit” – the difference between the amount utilities make from customers and the amount they pay to power generators – which could place a heavy strain on operators in future.

Data from Bloomberg indicates that this discrepancy reached 5.6 billion Euros (approx. US$7.3 billion) in 2012, while the entire deficit for the sector is currently in excess of 25.5 billion Euros.

Kelly-Detwiler said that while Spain’s accomplishments in promoting renewable energy appear laudable at first glance, the country could eventually serve as a cautionary tale of the problems that rash and ill considered policy can bring.

Spain renewable energy