Spain increasingly addicted to fossil fuel imports

Fully 98% of coal, gas and oil consumed in 2015 was purchased abroad, a 17-point rise from 1990

Manuel Planelles

Far from going down, Spain’s dependency on the import of fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – has grown 17 points in 25 years. According to a new report from Eurostat, the European statistics agency, Spain’s dependency on fossil fuel imports shot up from 81% in 1990 to 98% in 2015. This means that practically all the fossil fuels consumed in Spain need to be purchased abroad.

Spain is still highly dependent on fossil fuel imports.
Spain is still highly dependent on fossil fuel imports.Carlos Rosillo

This puts Spain on the list of the EU’s 10 most import-dependent members. In fact, that 98% figure is 25 points above the average for the 28 member states.

Fossil fuels remain the main source of energy in Spain and the EU. In 2015, 74% of gross inland energy consumption in Spain came from gas, oil and coal. The EU average was only a jot lower at 73%.

Consumption is up, no new deposits have been found, and the existing ones are in decline

Mariano Marzo, researcher

There has been some progress in renewable energy generation in recent years, and this has made the fossil fuel-to-gross energy consumption ratio in Spain fall four points. But the transportation sector remains almost completely dependent on fossil fuels.

Pedro Linares, the vice-rector for research at Comillas Pontifical University and co-director of the Spanish research group Economics for Energy, blames this increased dependency on imports on a reduction of domestic coal consumption.

“We practically no longer consume national coal,” says Linares. As for gas and oil, there have been very few changes over the last decades; save for a few small extraction operations, Spain still lacks significant deposits.


El País

In June of last year, the Spanish Supreme Court dealt a new blow to renewable energy producers by backing the 2014 government decree that resulted in cuts of nearly €1.7 billion in subsidies for the sector.

Spain also failed to meet the goals it had set for the use of clean energy in 2015.

Mariano Marzo, a professor of energy resources at Barcelona University’s Geology School, agrees.

“Consumption is up, no new deposits have been found, and the existing ones are in decline,” he notes, also pointing at an increase in coal imports.

Regarding Spain’s refusal to conduct hydrocarbon exploration in the Mediterranean, Marzo says that “we have anticipated where we wanted to go, but failed to realize that it cannot be done from one day to the next.”

Europe as a whole has also become more dependent on imports of fossil fuels over the last quarter of a century. In 1990, 53% of gas, oil and coal consumed by the 28 member states was imported. By 2015, that figure had risen to 73%.

English version by Susana Urra.

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