May 2 (Renewables Now) - Current Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) emerged as winners on Sunday’s general election as the left organised to keep ultra-nationalists from tagging along with conservatives on the way to the government.
Spanish voters answered the call with a 75.8% turnout securing the incumbent Socialists 123 Congress seats of the 176 needed to win the absolute majority. As pre-election polls analysed by Spanish daily newspaper El Pais predicted, neither party won enough votes to govern alone. Of the total 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies, the PSOE’s main political rival, the conservative right-of-centre People’s Party (PP) took just 66 seats, down from 137 won in the 2016 election. The Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, an occasional partner of the PP, celebrated its 57 seats. On the left, Unidas Podemos, a coalition of anti-austerity party Podemos, the United Left and green party Equo, secured 35 seats. The fear of the anti-feminist, anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant ultra-nationalist Vox was not unfounded. After first shocking the apathetic progressives in the region of Andalusia with 12 parliament seats won last December, Vox has now managed to place 24 members in the national Congress becoming the first far-right party to do so since Spain’s return to democracy.
According to the provisional data by the Spanish ministry of the interior, 99.99% of the votes have been tallied so far, and no combination of deals between parties on the right will succeed in forming the next government. El Pais has reported that post-election coalitions will have to wait until after the European Parliament elections on May 26. Pedro Sanchez, whose party governed for the past ten months after successfully leading a no-confidence vote against former prime minister Mariano Rajoy of the PP, will likely seek the support from his fellow left-wingers and some regional parties for the next round in La Moncloa palace.
GREEN NEW DEAL ON THE HORIZON
While some burning issues in the Spanish politics and economy, such as the complex Catalan crisis or the high unemployment rate, will take time and skill to resolve, renewable energy policies are currently safe in the hands of the Socialists. In its 300-page electoral programme, the PSOE promised a Green New Deal, described as a social contract between the capital, employment and the planet. The Socialists placed their vision of Spain’s ecological transition in the economy chapter of the programme committing not only to high environmental and climate-friendly goals but also to job creation and the security of investment. For the PSOE, the conversation on renewables is not hot air. During the past ten months, the PSOE-led government juggled Brexit, the Catalan issue, social policies and the EU obligations, while managing the squeeze in the repeal of the infamous sun tax which for years halted the installation of solar power schemes on the country’s sun-drenched rooftops. In addition, it approved new regulation for self-consumption which opened the door for citizens and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be a part of renewable energy future. The Sanchez government also completed the 2021-2030 National Energy and Climate Plan, currently in the public consultation phase, which will set the stage for 120 GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2030.
FIFTY SHADES OF RED
As said above, the Podemos-United Left-Equo coalition is the most likely to follow the PSOE to La Moncloa. Podemos, as the leader of the populist left, published its own election manifesto first telling voters it has had enough of Spain serving drinks for tourists and waving good-bye to its workers as they look for jobs in wealthy countries. Renewables also play a part in the future economy, deserving a mention in the first chapter of the manifesto. While coinciding with the PSOE on tough renewables targets, Podemos does not propose “a contract with the capital” to get there. It proposes that mobilising public and private capital to the tune of 2.5% of the GDP each year will contribute to halving carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in one decade. However, ambitious goals, such as making trains the chief mode of transport to connect the country's rural areas, will mainly rely on public spending. Private capital is hardly mentioned in the party's clean energy plans which mostly revolve around direct state aid to small and medium renewables installations, the recovery of the state management of hydropower plants after their concessions expire, and the establishment of the public-private investment in the battery tech development.
The Spanish renewables market has been healthy enough for a while to sustain subsidy-free projects. With the new expanded self-consumption regulation approved within the inch of elections, citizens and SMEs can now join in as well without fear of abrupt changes in direction.