1Q 2020
The first quarter of 2020 heralds a green revolution

The national electricity system concluded the first quarter of the year with figures suggesting that 2020 will be remembered as the first of the new – and eagerly awaited – renewable era. The energy transition in Spain is no longer a mere declaration of intent, and the data are starting to prove it. 

The calculation for January, February and March revealed a 44.59% share of renewables in the total generation mix at a national level. A significant figure if we compare it to the same period in 2019: 38.42%. In fact, if compared with the equivalent quarters of the last four years (since 2017), this year has seen the highest level of reliance on renewable energy. And, if the analysis were to include all the data from the available history, 2020 would occupy the third place on the podium, surpassed only by 2014 and 2016.

Of course, the intrinsic characteristics of this first period of each year have a lot to do with these good results. During the first three months of the year, the wind usually blows strongly, and there is a lot more rainfall. Therefore, it is logical for wind and hydro to record high values. This has happened in 2020, when they have exceeded the values recorded in the equivalent period of 2019.

Sin embargo, durante este primer trimestre de 2020 también ha destacado otra energía renovable que no suele ser característica de esta horquilla temporal. La solar fotovoltaica ha registrado un récord en la generación nacional trimestral, participando en un 4,12%. No hay más que observar el dato de este mismo periodo el pasado año -sólo el 2,96%- para deducir que los rayos de sol han brillado de una forma extraordinaria en este inicio de 2020. Los más de 4 GW de potencia instalada puestos en servicio durante 2019 empiezan a dar sus frutos y esto es solo el principio: el verano ya se acerca.

However, during this first quarter of 2020, there was also another renewable energy that is not characteristic of this time frame. Solar PV has registered a record in the national quarterly generation, contributing 4.12%. One only needs to look at the figure for this same period last year - only 2.96% - to conclude that the sun's rays have been shining extraordinarily brightly at the start of 2020. The more than 4 GW of installed capacity put into service during 2019 is starting to bear fruit and this is just the beginning: summer is coming.


But this beginning of the year has not only been coloured green. During this first quarter, 72.75% of the electricity has been generated without emitting CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere, compared to 64.72% in the similar period of 2019. To obtain this figure, the role of nuclear energy, together with the aforementioned importance of renewable energy, has been fundamental, as it has marked its highest participation in the generation mix since 2007 (23.97%).

El año 2020 también recoge el testigo de 2019 en la apuesta por la descarbonización. La participación de este combustible fósil en la producción eléctrica ha sido tan sólo de un 3,38%, lo que supone el dato más bajo desde que Red Eléctrica tiene registros (tres primeros meses del año). Frente a este dato, el del primer trimestre de 2019, cuando el carbón generó el 10,1% de la energía eléctrica. 

2020 also takes up the baton of 2019 in the commitment to decarbonisation. The participation of this fossil fuel in electricity production has only been 3.38%, which is the lowest figure since Red Eléctrica has records (for the first three months of the year). In comparison, in the first quarter of 2019, coal generated 10.1% of our electrical energy. 

March, or the beginning of the solar revolution

If we look closely at each of these first three months, March takes all the honours. It has recorded a 49.52% share of renewables, followed a long way behind by February (42.84%). In the third month of the year, technology based on photovoltaic cells has managed to record the highest monthly participation in the history of this technology. Its production, which reached 1,050.3 GWh - has even exceeded that of previous summers. Specifically, on March 29, it recorded the highest daily production ever, with 50.37 GWh and an 8.5% share in the generation mix. 

These data, while positive, will soon be history. The characteristic seasonality of this technology and the progressive increase of its complete set of generating facilities guarantee that solar PV will experience moments of greater glory in the coming months.

March was also notable for its low share of coal. Only 2.2 out of every 100 MWh were produced using this polluting energy. This is the second lowest figure in the history of the national electricity system, only surpassed by that recorded in May 2019.

Also worthy of attention is the figure for generation without emissions, which was the fifth highest in history, only surpassed, in this order, by the values for February 2014, March 2014, April 2016 and April 2014. There is a significant cause for this good data: nuclear power recorded its fourth highest figure, while the highest ever was recorded in April 2017.