The Spanish energy landscape has changed a lot since the 1980s, when 73% of the country's primary energy came from oil, according to the data of the CES (Economic and Social Council of Spain). Today, the percentage has been reduced to less than half (42%) and renewable energies (water, wind and sun) are already the third source of energy production (14%), above nuclear (11.9%) and coal (10.5%). Natural gas generates 20% of the total Spanish energy, occupying the second place as primary energy source.
But, despite the progressive containment of oil consumption in the last thirty years, the EU's targets of 20% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 seem far away. The achievement of this demanding objective necessarily involves a change in the energy model that should prioritize efficiency and reinforce the role of renewable energies without neglecting security of supply.
In this regard, the International Energy Agency maintains that the commitment to energy efficiency will be responsible for almost 60% of the reduction in emissions. Initiatives such as the cogeneration of energy -the productive use of waste heat obtained in the process of generating electricity from natural gas to, for example, heat water- can drastically reduce primary energy consumption both in the industry and in the sector residential.
Natural gas appears in this context as a useful and valuable tool to ensure a sustainable energy transition. Not only because of its role in cogeneration and its potential as fuel in land and maritime transport but, above all, as an energy backup in electricity production when renewable resources, such as sun and wind, are not available. As noted by the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, during the Energy Conference EU-Norway, "gas will play a key role in the energy transition and help Europe to achieve its ambitious goal of zero emissions in 2050". The commissioner stressed "the perfect flexibility offered by natural gas when it comes to completing the production of electricity" from renewable and variable sources such as wind or solar energy, so he did not hesitate to say that the gas will act as a "bridge" towards the decarbonisation of energy in Europe. According to the objectives set by the EU, natural gas consumption should represent between 20% and 30% of the total final energy consumption in 2030, which, in the Spanish market, would mean a 10% increase in to the current situation.
NATURAL GAS: ADVANTAGES OF EFFICIENT ENERGY
According to the report The Role of Natural Gas in a low-emission Spanish economy, prepared by KPMG in collaboration with Sedigas, "natural gas offers unique advantages over other sources of energy, being one of the most economically efficient technologies". According to the same study, in a gas context of 33% of the Spanish energy mix, the country's consolidated gas infrastructure would not only favour the fulfilment of the decarbonisation objectives of the EU but could also generate savings of up to 223 million euros annual All this, due to 4 reasons:
1) It means an environmental improvement. In a country where 90% of merchandise travels by truck and in which the average age of the 30 million cars that make up its vehicle fleet exceeds 12 years, any attempt to reduce emissions will necessarily happen by means of a change in the model of the use of fuels for mobility. In this sense, natural gas is a solution capable of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in transport by more than 20%. Specifically, 23% compared to gasoline cars and 16% compared to diesel trucks and buses according to the study Greenhouse gas intensity of Natural Gas (NGVA Europe Association). This means that the use of natural gas in transport will not only favour an advance towards global decarbonisation but also cause direct positive effects on people's health thanks to the improvement of air quality in their cities.
2) Complements the capacity of renewable energies. The intermittency of the production of renewable energies -dependent of unpredictable resources such as the wind the sun-, and the absence of a technology that allows them to be stored in large quantities requires a complementary energy that not only ensures the supply, but that it also does it efficiently. In this sense, the combined cycles -electric power generation plants in which the thermal energy left over from the combustion of natural gas is transformed into electricity- and the already installed high capacity in Spain (25.3 GW) of this model of production could play a key role in achieving the targets for the penetration of renewables in the 2030 horizon. The limited proportion of greenhouse gases generated by these plants places natural gas as the cleanest fossil thermal energy.
3) It favours the competitiveness of the industrial sector. Natural gas offers multiple competitive advantages to the industry: it has a high calorific value, which reduces the amount of fuel needed; thanks to the current development of the gas infrastructure, it avoids investments in storage or preparation, unlike what happens with oil or coal; it is flexible, because it allows industries to start and stop quickly their demand and consumption; and it is efficient since, through cogeneration, it uses the heat left over from its own transformation process to generate electricity. The consumption of natural gas in Spanish industry presents a historical share of 40-44% of the total, so preserving these levels would ensure the stability of the sector's economic competitiveness.
4) Guarantees security of supply in a sustainable manner. Spain has a powerful and mature gas infrastructure (more than 13,000 km of gas pipelines) which means that, by boosting its use, an existing infrastructure would be profitable without generating new present or future costs. Similarly, the remarkable diversification of sources of natural gas supply that the country has reached in recent years makes it possible to guarantee the security of the energy supply in an ever-changing global context: an excellent news for the energy stability of the country.
SPAIN, LEADER IN EXPERTICE AND GASISTIC INFRASTRUCTURE
In addition, today Spain is also a world leader in the knowledge and use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) technology. This processed element obtained from the cooling of natural gas to facilitate its transport by sea will represent, according to forecasts of the International Energy Agency (IEA), more than half of global gas trade in 2040, compared to 25% that represented in the year 2000.
Spain is currently one of the largest LNG operators in the world and an international reference in the field thanks to its extensive management capacity of this technology. The innovative commitment to a transformation of combined cycle plants into liquefied natural gas regasification plants carried out in the early years of the 2010 decade, together with the strategic geographical situation of the country, have made Spain a world leader in knowledge and use of the technology of the GNL.
This pre-eminent position in the gas sector cannot be understood without taking into account the role of the gas company Naturgy throughout its 175-year history in our country. Naturgy was the first gas company founded in Spain (1843) and was a pioneer in the distribution of natural gas in the Iberian Peninsula (1869). 175 years later, the energy company continues to lead the distribution of natural gas in the Iberian Peninsula. Currently, it is the largest integrated gas and electricity company in Spain and Latin America, with more than 18 million customers in the world and a strong presence in the energy markets of Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Peru.
The data has been extracted from the briefing provided by Naturgy for the preparation of the article. The original source quotes: "Our country is the European leader in terms of natural gas storage capacity and regasification capacity, with 40% and 32% of the total European capacity, respectively. In total, it has 6 operational regasification plants, 3 underground storage facilities and 2 international connections, which could potentially import more than 93 TWh of natural gas".
DIVERSIFYING SOURCES, KEY TO ENSURE THE ENERGY OF THE FUTURE
Liquefied natural gas plays a fundamental role in achieving this milestone. Today, our country is a key entry point for this type of gas, mainly from Africa and the Atlantic Ocean. Spain has become a European LNG hub thanks to its strategic position geographical area and its high regasification capacity -it has 7 regasification plants out of a total of 23 in Europe. It is a market in expansion, undoubtedly, as evidenced by the increase in its share of total consumption in Spain, over 30%, experienced between 1998 and 2010.
Naturgy is betting strongly on this technology. Its recent long-term agreement with the Russian company Yamal LNG will allow gas to be supplied to the south of Europe by unloading and regasification of shipments of 172,600 cubic meters of gas -the equivalent to one month consumption of Madrid- transported on ships to gas facilities of the Spanish coast. This is the first long-term LNG import contract with Russia, that seeks to ensure the diversification and security of supply in Europe, while at the same time bets on Spain as a hub for European LNG.
In this way, new agreements reached with several countries that supply natural gas have played a fundamental role in conquering the current supply security, unthinkable 15 years ago. Today, for example, Spain can source directly from Algeria through the pipeline linking both countries. In this regard, Naturgy and SONATRACH (the Algerian company Société Nationale pour la Recherche, Production, Transport, Transformation et Commercialisation des Hydrocarbures, SpA) signed an agreement in June 2018 to renew gas supplies to Spain from Algeria, which currently represent more than 40% of Naturgy's supply. The alliance between both companies ensures the stable supply of gas to Spain with an improvement in conditions and an effective horizon until 2030.