Europe, Environment

Spain returns to burning coal amid energy crisis, cold wave

Households pay 63% more for electricity in Oct than during the same month last year

Alyssa McMurtry   | 22.11.2021
Spain returns to burning coal amid energy crisis, cold wave

OVIEDO, Spain

Despite being in the process of shutting down, Spain's dirtiest coal-fired power plant went back online on Monday amid soaring energy prices and a nationwide cold snap.

The As Pontes power plant has been in the process of shutting down since late 2019 -- the same year that the European Commission ranked it as the number-one carbon dioxide emitter in Spain and number-17 in the EU.

After months of being dismantled as Spain looked towards cleaner energy sources, the plant's activity halted completely last summer.

But, electricity prices have recently skyrocketed in Spain, with the wholesale electricity price reaching €236 ($265) per megawatt-hour on Monday. Last November, the monthly average was just €42 ($47).

According to Spain's National Institute for Statistics, households paid 63% more for electricity last month than they did in October 2020.

This has helped push inflation in the country to the highest levels since 1992, coming in higher than expected at 5.4% in October.

The price surge has coincided with a cold wave. On Monday, the country's first major winter-like storm began with temperatures plunging to near freezing in Madrid and snowstorms expected at higher altitudes.

The cold made the cloud of steam rising from the stacks of As Pontes even more visible. Endesa, the plant's operator, has imported around 140,000 tonnes of coal to burn over the coming days or weeks, depending on demand and energy prices.

Spain has pledged to fully eliminate its use of coal by 2030.

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