The provinces of Badajoz (5), Seville (4), Granada (2), Ciudad Real (2), Cáceres, Córdoba, Cuenca and Murcia have benefitted from the growth in the solar thermal electric industry in Spain, just when the rest of the country has been facing severe difficulties in light of the recession, with total unemployment running at over 20%.
According to the trade association, Protermosolar, “the construction and subsequent commissioning of solar thermal electric plants has been one of the few industrial activities not to have been affected by the Spanish economic crisis from 2008 to 2010”. During that period, seventeen power plants of this type have opened, creating thousands of jobs in the southern half of the country. Badajoz, with five plants, and Seville, with four, have been the two provinces to benefit the most from the boom in concentrating solar power (CSP).
The Chairman of the Industry Council of the Spanish Confederation of Employers' Organizations (CEOE), J. Miguel Guerrero, bemoaned the severity of the crisis suffered by Spanish industry in a recent newspaper article entitled "Future industrial model and policy". According to Mr. Guerrero, the global economic and financial crisis that has shaken international markets in recent years has highlighted the weaknesses of the economies of many industrialised countries. He believes that, in the case of Spain, this crisis has caused the country’s industry to go through one of the most complicated moments in recent history, with significant falls in output and employment.
Citing official data from the Spanish National Institute of Statistics, the Chairman of the Industry Council of the CEOE revealed that between the first quarter of 2008 and the third quarter of 2010, over 750,000 jobs were lost in industry, a decline that has been accompanied by a decrease in the relative weight of this sector in the Spanish economy in terms of gross value added (GVA).
For the CEOE, the road toward economic recovery is to improve innovation and competitiveness and internationalise the Spanish economy; a process in which the industrial sector is destined to play a major role given its traction compared to other sectors and its highly export-intensive nature.
If there is one sector that perfectly fits the image described by the CEOE it is the CSP sector, which has not only avoided losing jobs in recent years, but has actually created them, with Spain becoming a world leader in solar thermal electric power.
While domestic industry lost 750,000 jobs since 2008, in the same period of time Spain connected seventeen new CSP plants to the grid with an installed capacity of 722.4 MW (before 2008, only the PS10 plant in Sanlucar la Mayor, Seville, was online).
Solar thermal power plants are generating the most employment, from the design and engineering phase, through to manufacturing, construction and commissioning. Each 50-MW plant employs an average of 5,000 equivalent direct jobs per annum during all phases (design, component manufacturing and installation), plus many more indirect jobs, according to an official report from CIEMAT (the Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Centre for Technology, Environment, and Energy Research), with 80% being domestic value added.
Another key point: the crisis has confirmed that Spain is a country of small and medium enterprises. In the past two years, no fewer than 7,000 companies have changed from being large businesses to SMEs. The country has experienced a decline to 2006 levels and now only 30,574 companies have a turnover of more than €6 million. “The relatively small size of companies is one of the obstacles to overcoming the crisis, as it hinders internationalisation at a time when exports need to be used to offset the fall in domestic consumption,” says Protermosolar.
Going against this trend, the solar thermal electric sector generally comprises large companies that contribute stability, job retention and the ability to innovate that has made Spain a world leader in terms of its technological capability in converting the sun's energy into clean and (alongside biomass, the only) storable renewable power.
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