Spain's Viesgo U-Turns and Now Plans to Shut Coal Plant
By Juan Weik
June 16, 2020 - Spanish utility Viesgo has requested the closure of its 570MW Los Barrios coal-fired plant, the biggest of the three coal units that were still expected to continue operating in mainland Spain after 2022.
The decision comes just four months after the company told Argus it planned to keep Los Barrios operational, suggesting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Spanish coal-fired power demand may have contributed to the change in strategy.
Viesgo said it could not determine an estimated closure date for the plant as the process was subject to several administrative procedures and authorisations.
"We are working on development plans for the plant, but we have to keep them confidential to ensure they can be carried out," the company told Argus when queried on whether it was planning to develop renewable power projects to replace Los Barrios.
Data from Spanish power grid operator REE show that coal-fired generation in the southwest province of Cadiz — where Los Barrios is the sole coal generator — reached minus 4.78GWh in the first five months of this year, which means the unit consumed more electricity than it produced during the period. This compares with a generation of 493GWh — or a 136MW hourly average — in January-May 2019.
Coal-fired generation in May reached only 245GWh, or 330MW, in mainland Spain, down by 28.6pc year on year and a new record low. The volume represented just 1.4pc of the energy mix, also a historical minimum share.
The level for the whole Spanish system reached around 245GWh as the Balearic islands did not generate any coal-fired power for a fifth consecutive month in May. REE noted that, in contrast, in May 2007 coal output had accounted for a 27pc share in Spain's energy mix.
Viesgo's decision means that Portuguese utility EDP's 562MW Abono 2 and 346MW Soto de Ribera 3 are the only coal-fired plants that would continue operating in mainland Spain.
EDP told Argus last month that it has been considering plans to shut down Soto de Ribera 3 by 2022, which means Abono 2 might become the sole coal unit in the peninsular system in the near future.
A total of 15 of the existing 25 coal-fired units in mainland Spain are expected to close by 30 June this year, ahead of stricter EU-wide industrial emissions standards coming into force on 1 July. These units have a combined capacity of 4.87GW, more than half of the total 9.21GW.
Another 2.5GW — Spanish utility Endesa's 1.1GW Litoral de Almeria and 1.4GW As Pontes — could close by the end of 2021.