Spain Energy

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Spain - Energy


Although Spain's mountainous terrain would appear to be wellsuited to hydroelectric power production, the scarcity of water limited such potential and was the principal reason for Spain's heavy dependence on thermal power. In 1986 only 27.2 percent of the country's electricity came from hydroelectric plants, while 50.6 percent came from conventional thermal plants, and 22.2 percent came from nuclear plants. The most important fuel for the production of electricity was coal, which generated about 40 percent of the total. In 1987 the production of electricity amounted to 132,000 million kilowatt hours--about six times the amount produced in 1960 and twice the production level of 1970. The total installed capacity of the predominantly privately owned electrical system was about 40 gigawatts--an amount large enough to meet the country's needs and to allow some exports. In the second half of the 1980s, the growth of the demand for electrical power was less than anticipated, and Spain had a supply adequate to last until the mid-1990s. The Spanish level of per capita electrical power consumption was among the lowest in Western Europe, surpassing only those of Greece and Portugal.

A key element in the future of Spain's electrical power industry was the role to be assigned to nuclear power. Nuclear power was an important factor because of scarce petroleum reserves, the limited potential for hydroelectric power production, and the presence of significant uranium deposits. The first PEN, drawn up in 1978, emphasized the role that nuclear power would play in meeting the nation's ever-increasing need for electricity. The revised PEN of 1984 postponed the opening of the Lemoniz Nuclear Power Plant for political reasons, and it continued the mothballing of three other nuclear plants. The government decided, nonetheless, that if the demand for electricity increased by more than 3 percent, work on one of the plants might be restarted. The new PEN also emphasized the benefits of increased natural gas consumption.

More about the Economy of Spain.


Spain's coal reserves are found primarily in Asturias, with smaller deposits located near southwestern Seville, Cordoba, and Badajoz, and in northeastern Catalonia and Aragon (Spanish, Aragon). Most of the country's lignite is located in Galicia. Domestic coal is generally of poor quality, and, because of the structure of Spanish deposits, it is more expensive than imported coal. In 1967 HUNOSA, a state holding company under the control of INI, was founded to direct most of Spain's coal mining, and it gradually took over the larger coal companies.

Higher oil prices have spurred domestic coal production. Annual production in the early 1970s amounted to about 10 million tons of coal and 3 million tons of lignite. By the mid-1980s, the industry produced 15 million tons of coal and 23 million tons of lignite annually. This higher rate of production was insufficient to meet domestic needs because coal had come to supply about 25 percent of Spain's needed energy, compared with about 16 percent in the early 1970s. About 5 million tons of foreign coal were imported per annum.

Over the years, there had been little change in patterns of coal consumption. Hard coal, used mainly for the generation of electricity, accounted for 65 percent of total demand. The steel and cement industries were the two next-largest consumers.

In line with the energy rationalization policies set by PEN, the government sought to increase the efficiency of the coalmining sector by closing down high-cost mines and by providing financial aid for the industry's modernization. To encourage the cement and other industries to convert from oil to coal, the government allowed them to import duty-free coal. The government also made efforts to substitute the use of oil for coal in urban areas.


Spain is poor in energy resources, with the exception of coal. Rapid industrial growth has intensified the problems caused by insufficient oil reserves, dwindling supplies of easily accessible high-quality coal, and inadequate water for power generation. Until the early 1980s, Spain increasingly depended upon imported petroleum, and overall energy consumption continued to grow in the 1973-79 period. Following adjustment to a slower rate of economic growth and to the changed energy market of the 1970s, Spanish energy consumption declined in the early 1980s.

The National Energy Plan (Plan Energetico Nacional--PEN), the basic statement of official energy policy, was first formulated in 1978. Revised in 1983 to cover the 1984-93 period, the new PEN aimed at a rationalization of energy consumption and a reduction in Spain's dependence on imported energy. It pressed, in addition, for a reorganization of the oil industry and for a financial reorganization of the electricity industry. In contrast to the 1978-87 plan, it reduced the role of nuclear energy.

Natural Gas

In order to reduce Spain's dependence on imported oil, PEN encouraged natural gas consumption. Efforts to redirect the use of fuels were successful, and in the 1980s the consumption of natural gas increased faster than that of any other fuel. Total natural gas demand doubled between 1973 and 1984, and in 1987 it accounted for 3.85 percent of all energy consumption. Energy planners hoped to increase this share to 7 percent by 1992.

Domestic production of natural gas began in 1984 with the development of the Serrablo field; two years later the Gaviota field went into operation. In 1987 domestic production supplied about one-sixth of Spain's natural gas consumption, and observers anticipated that its share might rise to as much as one-third by 1990. Domestic production shortfalls were taken up by imports from Algeria and Libya under long-term contracts. In 1988 it was agreed that Spain's gradually expanding gas pipeline network would be connected to the European network, and Norwegian gas was scheduled to begin arriving in Spain in 1992.


Although oil continued to be Spain's major source of energy, it had diminished in importance significantly since 1973. Oil consumption grew steadily between 1973 and 1979, reaching 50 million tons in that last year, but by 1985 it had declined to 39 million tons. Oil accounted for two-thirds of the country's primary energy requirements throughout the 1970s, but by the mid1980s the figure had dropped to just over half. In 1985 alone, Spanish industry saved 40 billion pesetas (US$260 million) by replacing 500,00 tons of oil consumption with coal and natural gas.

In 1985 Mexico, responsible for 19.7 percent of Spain's petroleum imports, was the largest single supplier of Spain's energy needs, and in the mid-1980s Latin American countries provided Spain with about one-quarter of its imported oil. Africa's share--Nigeria being the most important supplier-- dropped from 36.5 percent in 1985 to 29.3 percent in 1987. Middle Eastern countries provided 27.4 percent in 1985 and 29.6 percent in 1987. Western Europe's share rose from 10.6 percent in 1985 to 16.5 percent in 1987. Efforts were under way to lessen Spain's dependence on Middle Eastern oil and to increase imports from Mexico.

In the 1980s, imported petroleum entered Spain via eight ports. The three largest, in terms of vessel capacity, were Algeciras (330,000 deadweight tons), Malaga (330,000 tons), and Cartagena (260,000 tons).

Spain possessed a small domestic oil production capability that yielded only 1.6 million tons in 1987. Despite a sizable exploration effort, only a few small fields and two medium-sized ones were discovered. The Casablanca oil field, discovered in 1983, yielded 90 percent of Spain's domestic oil production in 1987, but it was not large enough to offset an overall decline in Spanish production. The fall in oil prices in the 1980s further reduced the country's exploration efforts.

The Spanish oil industry imported and refined foreign crude petroleum; it distributed petrochemical products within Spain; and, in the mid-1980s, it exported about 10 million tons of finished petroleum products per year.

As with some other sectors of the Spanish economy, the domestic oil industry had been brought under state control. Distribution of petroleum products had been in the hands of the state monopoly, Compania Arrendataria del Monopolio de Petroleos (CAMPSA), since 1927, and large portions of the shipping and refining system were state owned. To rationalize the petroleum industry and to make it able to withstand foreign competition, the National Institute for Hydrocarbons (Instituto Nacional de Hidrocarburos--INH) was formed in 1981 in order to direct CAMPSA and those parts of the oil, gas, and petrochemical industry supervised by INI. By the mid-1980s, INH was responsible for more than 1 percent of the Spanish GDP, and it claimed 20,000 employees. To prepare for Spain's entry into the EC, after which state monopolies were required to be phased out, all of INH's holdings, with the exception of the state gas company, Empresa Nacional del Gas (ENAGAS), were placed under a new holding company in the late 1980s. The company, Repsol, which had a stock market listing, was gradually to allow a greater role for private capital in the petroleum industry. By 1988 Repsol had become Western Europe's seventh largest petroleum company, and its management planned to continue to control about half of the Spanish market once that market was fully opened to foreign firms in 1992. EC membership rendered CAMPSA's future uncertain, for it would no longer be allowed its distribution monopoly. The Treaty of Accession that brought Spain into the EC stipulated that specific amounts of nine groups of petroleum products from foreign suppliers would have access to the Spanish market. In 1986 these products were to have a 5 percent share of the domestic market--a share that was to increase by 20 percent (of this 5 percent) each year thereafter.

You can read more regarding this subject on the following websites:

Energy in Spain - Wikipedia
Spain - International Energy Agency
Spain - Energy System Overview
Renewable energy in Spain - Wikipedia
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