The renewable energy advocates

In Spain two key groups have emerged as the most active and vocal advocates for renewable energy and the systemic changes needed to bring about its development: independent developers and civil society organizations.

The independent developers' role was a key one. Smaller than traditional utilities, they also differed in that they wanted to use renewable energy — mainly small-scale hydro and wind. To protect and promote their common interest, these firms formed umbrella associations. This allowed them to speak with a unified voice and the content, in many cases, was quite different from what upper management of traditional utilities were saying about renewable energy.

We must also emphasize society's role and that of environmental groups in particular. For the major nationwide environment groups, renewable energies became the chosen alternative for tackling energy-based pollution. Such technologies allowed these groups to reconcile protection of environmental assets with a global and integrated solution and perspective. Importantly, the support and political pressure exerted by environmental and civil society groups in Spain preceded the development of the domestic industry.

A 1992 agreement to promote wind power provides an example of the pressure that multi-stakeholder coalitions applied to foster Spanish renewable energy development. At a time when the official IDAE objective was 175MW, a coalition comprising a nationwide environmental organization (Asociacion Ecologista de Defensa de la Naturaleza (AEDENAT)), along with two major national unions (Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) and Comisiores Obreras (CCOO)) and the Empresa Nacional de Electricidad SA (a publicly owned national electricity company at that stage) came together and called for a 750MW target. Although the target appeared overly ambitious at the time, their aims were to turn Spain into a leading country in a new environmental field, secure jobs and develop domestic energy security. Most would now consider these objectives achieved, or at least well on the way.

Once the renewable industry became more established in the 1990s, the role of pressure groups evolved. They now fill the following roles: leveraging required increases for renewable programmes and projects, breaking political, policy or systemic deadlocks that emerge, and taking the lead to counter social lobbies against renewable energy.

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