A Spotlight on Spanish Teenagers’ Perspectives: Why Spain has not Embraced Solar Power yet…
Tom Broadbent, Foreign Correspondent in Spain, decided to challenge his students to engage with macro politics. He introduces an article by one of his students, María Garcia Gálvez, discussing why Spain has not yet made the most of solar power.
“Are you a political person?” is a question which frustrates me no end, but I found myself asking this to my students whilst working as an English language assistant in Gijón, northern Spain. When the majority of my students replied “no” to my question, we started to discuss what it means to be political. The standard answers came flooding through: “an elected politician” or “someone who campaigns for a political party”. Whilst it is true that these people are politically engaged, it wasn’t until I posed some agree or disagree questions that my students started to understand the point I was trying to make. There is no such thing as a political or apolitical person – only people who choose to engage in the political sphere and those who choose not to. If you ask people “do you think prisoners should have the right to vote?” or “when you die should you be forced to give a percentage of your money to the government?” people of all ages tend to have opinions – those opinions are political and thus to my point: all people are political.
I see myself as a politically active person. My youngest memories are mostly based around listening to the News Quiz with my mother as she cooked dinner, and of course The Archers. At university I studied International Relations and will begin my career within the Civil Service in August, so holding the position of teacher, I felt a duty to try to encourage a sense of civic engagement within my school community. Whilst Spain can boast a high level of turnout to its elections, I felt like my students were just parroting the views of their parents – without truly considering the sentiments they were transmitting.
As a result, during my classes with 14 to 16-year-olds, I went about running debates in class and in student elections. For my older students, I decided to work with Exeposé to offer a writing competition. I posed them a choice of several politically orientated themes and then we worked closely together to edit and improve them. Whilst I had countless fascinating essays, which are all available to read at https://elpilesingles.wordpress.com/, after much consideration the following is the article which we found most interesting. After talking in detail with pupils of all ages about environmental degradation, water pollution through microplastics and alternative sources of power, María Garcia Gálvez decided to ask a very important question…
Why isn’t sunny Spain leading the world in solar power?
The EU solar market grew 36% in 2018, so, with its reputation for numerous sunny days, why isn’t Spain a leading country in solar energy production? The answer lies in the economic situation of the country in the past two decades.
According to The Telegraph, Madrid is the European city with the fourth highest number of hours of sunshine. While considering the fact that Spain is one of the sunniest places on the continent, some might question the reason why the country is not taking advantage of it by investing heavily in solar power. An economic crisis and the implementation of a targeted tax are the two main reasons for this. Yet, recent legal action aims to slowly start to reinvigorate the use of Spanish solar energy.
Despite the fact that in 2010, Spain rose to become the leader in concentrated solar power worldwide, it was soon surpassed by other countries. In order to understand this, it is important to analyse the background of solar energy in the nation. Before 2008, Spain was one of the best places in the world to build photovoltaic energy infrastructure, however, the significant economic crisis forced the country to stop major investments in that field and further delay the construction of solar farms and private arrays. Years later, after the financial situation improved, solar power slowly started to regain financing and importance in the energy sector: between 2006 and 2012, the production and consumption of renewable energy doubled. Nevertheless, this was soon countered by regulations introduced in 2012 and 2015 by the Spanish government known as the “Sun Tax”, which consisted of a 7% tax implemented in every source of energy. This meant that investing in sustainable methods was the same price or even more expensive than traditional power sources.
Regardless, nowadays there is still hope for the future implementation of more solar panels in Spain. Although until the beginning of 2018 the Spanish government’s work to promote solar energy was considered a failure, in October of the same year Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) removed the “Sun Tax”. Furthermore, the government has now set the goal of reaching a growth rate of 3,000 megawatts in solar power in the upcoming 10 years. Even though oil is still the main provider of energy consumption in the country, followed by natural gas and nuclear energy, sustainable methods account for around 14.3% of the total energy use.
In conclusion, Spain is currently looking forward to the promotion of solar power in the future, but there is still room for improvement. Obstacles such as the economic crisis and the “Sun Tax” have delayed the use and expansion of this type of energy, thus Spain is still behind many other European countries in the field. At the same time, recent legal action has been taken in order to change this. Nonetheless, only time will tell if the nation is, in fact, going to become the world leader in solar power production.