Dr Luis Crespo, general secretary of the Spanish Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) association Protermosolar: “We shouldn’t be worried. We need to talk to them.”

As support falls away from Spain’s two main parties, Spanish Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) firms are having to consider the prospect of a completely unknown political force gaining power next year.

By Jason Deign
Spanish CSP companies are on alert for a potential policy shift next year after recent surveys have revealed growing support for a new political force. Podemos (which translates as ‘We Can’) trounced Spain’s two main parties in an official poll last month.

The poll, by Spain’s Sociological Investigation Centre (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas or CIS in Spanish), saw 17.6% of those questioned saying they would vote for the grass-roots political group, which did not even exist a year ago.

The main opposition Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español or PSOE in Spanish) came second, with a 14.3% share of the vote.

Meanwhile the People’s Party (Partido Popular or PP), which won a landslide victory in Spain’s 2011 general elections, limped in at third place, with 11.7%.

Applying a number of analytical filters to its results, the CIS predicted that in the event of a real election the PP would still scrape a win, with 27.5% of the votes compared to 23.9% for the PSOE and 22.5% for Podemos.

However, an earlier poll, carried out by Metroscopia for the El País newspaper, had put Podemos ahead of the two main parties, with 27.7% of the vote compared to 26.2% for the PSOE and 20.7% for the PP.

Observers were quick to point out that the research came at a particularly difficult time for the current administration.

The pollsters carried out their fieldwork just as the PP was reeling from criticism on a number of fronts, including mismanagement of Europe’s first case of Ebola virus disease and a scandal linking prominent politicians to credit card abuse at a major Spanish bank.

Podemos itself was reported to be keen to play down the importance of the polls. But there was no getting away from the significance in the figures.

Newly created

“Never before has a newly created party reached such a high voting prospect as Podemos has managed in just eight months,” observed El País.

Furthermore, there is no certainty the main parties will be able to claw back a significant measure of support before the next general election, due in 2015.

The level of disaffection with the PP and PSOE’s revolving-door administration is perhaps difficult to appreciate outside of Spain.

An almost daily stream of scandals, coupled with lacklustre leadership from Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and unpopular measures such as an abortion bill that caused consternation worldwide, have massively eroded confidence in the PP.

On energy policy, the party has introduced retroactive measures that have unfairly punished national and international investors in renewable projects, leading to a barrage of lawsuits.

The PP has soldiered on regardless, apparently pinning all its re-election hopes on an economic recovery that still shows little sign of making an entrance.

The PSOE, meanwhile, has failed to sell itself as a credible alternative because of its own share of scandals, leadership deficiencies and lingering blame for Spain’s current economic woes.

Against this backdrop, there is a real possibility that Podemos, which made its first electoral mark in the European Parliament elections this year, could come to power in 2015.

Corporate interests

That possibility has corporate interests on edge, since the party, which includes a former adviser to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and is led by a media-friendly, ponytailed political science lecturer named Pablo Iglesias, is clearly no friend of the current political-industrial establishment.

Iglesias has even named Florentino Pérez, head of ACS, as exemplifying the cronyism that prevents Spain from being “a bit better.”

How would other companies in the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) sector, including major industrial concerns such as Abengoa or Acciona, fare under a Podemos government? Right now, even the party itself cannot say.

Using the kind of medium that might be expected for a movement which has grown largely through word of mouth and social media, the party told CSP Today via its Facebook page that: “The Podemos programme is still being put together, so we cannot answer your questions now.”

Currently, the source adds, the party’s thinking on renewables is largely based on a paper called ‘The ecological contribution to the battle for common sense’, by the Energy Critical Observatory (Observatorio Crítico de la Energía or OCE in Spanish), a liberal think tank.

While CSP is only mentioned once in the document, the good news is that the OCE seems highly supportive of renewable energy development, not just for the sake of power generation but also for job creation and exports.

The tone of the paper hints at a preference for distributed energy sources, but there is nothing that need make larger renewable interests nervous. The authors even go to lengths in dispelling what they call the ‘myths’ around the cost of support systems such as feed-in tariffs.
As a result, believes Dr Luis Crespo, general secretary of the Spanish Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) association Protermosolar: “We shouldn’t be worried. We need to talk to them.”