19 September 2023

From a purely contemplative perspective, it could be argued that green hydrogen is the philosopher’s stone of the energy sector, allowing us to propel our world towards cleaner energy alternatives. 

This method of energy production decarbonizes our existing processes without reducing the inventory levels of raw materials such as water, sunlight, and wind, which are not only unlimited but also free. 

Spain’s leadership in green hydrogen production

You could say that Spain’s leadership role in green hydrogen production is a combination of chance and necessity that have met at the right time and place. 

While the potential of green hydrogen was recognised a few years ago, the urgency of the current climate crisis has accelerated the energy transition towards decarbonization.

For hydrogen to become green (clean), a process known as water electrolysis is required. This process, while energy-intensive, could be powered by renewable sources. 

Spain is the lucky possessor of the three critical elements needed for this process: water, wind, and sunlight. Over the past two decades, Spain has also developed the specialised technology necessary for this endeavour.

At AIMS International Spain, we have observed this development firsthand. 

Along with the entire AIMS Energy Team, we have had the opportunity to collaborate in the international wind expansion of Spain’s largest electricity companies, such as power generators like Iberdrola, and manufacturers like Gamesa (now Gamesa-Siemens). It’s worth noting that Iberdrola is a global leader in wind energy.

Current results and future goals

As of today, the results in this line are:

  • Wind power accounts for nearly 50% of the electricity consumed in Spain.
  • The government’s goal is to reach 74% by 2030.
  • There is an official plan for green hydrogen to power one-third of land transport and half of maritime transport by 2050.
  • The leading Spanish companies in the sector are making important investments in other European countries and the USA.

A new configuration of the world?

Just as the world is currently divided into oil-producing and non-oil-producing countries, the near future may see a division between green hydrogen producers and non-green hydrogen producing countries. 

This shift could significantly alter current economic, social, and geopolitical balances. 

Spain, with its abundant natural resources and technological advancements, is poised to become a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen for the whole of Europe, particularly northern Europe, which has a high energy demand but little natural light.

Large projects are underway in Spain for the construction of new green hydrogen production plants, supported by both EU public and private capital. 

Major projects are also being designed for its transportation, with the “H2med Pipeline” connecting Barcelona with Marseille being a notable example. 

But not everything is going to be transported by hydrogen pipelines.

There are also plans for shipping hydrogen, such as the project with Dutch companies to transport hydrogen from Algeciras to the Netherlands.

In short, Spain had an excellent vision of the future with renewable energy production, and it is now taking on the challenge and responsibility of becoming Europe’s battery.

Possible social changes in Spain

The rise of green hydrogen production could also lead to significant social changes in Spain. 

Spain, like a few other countries, has been slowly but steadily concentrating its population in large population centres, resulting in what we call “Emptied Spain.”

I would not dare to quantify data, but I believe that the highest levels of solar radiation are found in these sparsely populated areas, making them ideal for renewable energy production. 

I am glad to see how all of these investment projects have a high added value, and that each Spanish province has some in different areas (production, transportation, distribution, consumption…), implying a territorial redistribution that other industrial sectors lack because they tend to concentrate in large poles.

This could result in a more evenly distributed industrialization, potentially revitalizing population centres at risk of depopulation.

I also end on a contemplative note by imagining a Spain with more distributed industrialization that regenerates population centres that are currently threatened with complete abandonment. 

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About the Author:

Carlos F. Ordás

Carlos F. Ordas, Managing Partner, AIMS International Spain

Having begun by audience controlling in the marketing dept. of SEAT (Volkswagen Group), he joined PA Consulting Group, firstly as Consultant and afterwards as Principal Consultant in the Executive Search Division (1975-79).

He founded Stemper, S.A. in 1979, a global executive search and selection firm focusing on middle and top positions. He co-founded AIMS in 1992 and was its President in 1996.

Carlos has more than 25 years experience in strategic development, consulting, search and selection.