NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Green Energy in Spain

May 4, 2011

Spain has long been considered a leader in the drive to renewable power.  Indeed, President Obama singled Spain out as an example in a 2009 speech.  But the story of Spain's renewable energy and green job leadership took a series of hits shortly after the president's speech, says Kenneth P. Green, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

For example, in March 2009, researchers Gabriel Calzada Alvarez and colleagues at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos released a study in which they examined the economic and employment impacts of Spain's aggressive push into renewables:

  • The study calculates that since 2000 Spain has spent 571,138 euro ($848,202) to create each "green job," including subsidies of more than 1 million euro ($1.49 million) per wind industry job.
  • The study calculates that the programs creating those jobs also resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,500 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs destroyed for every "green job" created.
  • Principally, the high cost of electricity affects costs of production and employment levels in metallurgy, nonmetallic mining, food processing, beverage, and tobacco industries.
  • Each "green" megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy: 8.99 by photovoltaics, 4.27 by wind energy, 5.05 by mini-hydro.
  • These costs do not appear to be unique to Spain's approach but instead are largely inherent in schemes to promote renewable energy sources.

Politicians around the world are peddling the green dream, that by forcing green energy into our electrical generation, we will create green jobs to produce green technology, and we'll have a utopian future of clean, inexpensive electricity.  Reality, however, shows that efforts to centrally plan our energy economy and to pick winning and losing technologies is an endeavor fraught with difficulty, says Green.

Source: Kenneth P. Green, "On Green Energy: Plainly Not Helping Spain," The American, May 3, 2011.

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