One of Spain's Largest Hydro-Power Plants to Halt Operations as Drought Worsens

A large drop in renewable energy output is forcing Spain to increase natural gas demand to generate electricity at a time Europe is in the worst energy crisis in a generation.

Spain's hydropower output has been halved this year due to drought, and things could get a lot worse as one of the country's largest hydropower plants is set to close.

Bloomberg reported the Mequinenza facility in the northeastern region of Aragon would halt hydropower generation in mid-November after water levels were 23% below capacity. It'll be the first time the hydro plant has closed since it was constructed in 1996.

In the week through Nov. 1, Mequinenza was only producing 6,221 gigawatt-hours or operating at around 27% of total capacity. According to Bloomberg calculations based on Environmental Transition Ministry data, water levels in the reservoir have hit the lowest level since 1995. This means there's not enough water flow to turn the plant's turbines.

Spain's hydropower generation has tumbled a whopping 53% this year through October, according to grid operator Red Electrica Corporacion SA. So when temperatures rise, and droughts persist, the hydropower industry gets squeezed hard.

Regarding other renewables like wind and solar, there is not enough output between the two to offset the loss in hydro, which means Spain has increased NatGas demand for power generation.

Data via network operator Enagas SA shows NatGas demand to generate electricity jumped 78% through October.

"A steep fall in renewable energy output is prompting the Mediterranean country to tap the fossil fuel to generate electricity at a time when Europe struggles with an unprecedented energy crisis following Russia's decision to cut supply, which pushed prices to a record high," Bloomberg said.

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