Spanish Progress

By Lanie Meyers

A recent week-long break brought me to southern Spain, where I was able to bask in the sunshine, catch up with some old friends, and enjoy the laid-back Spanish way of life. As I do now wherever I go, I tried to assess the country’s attitudes toward CleanTech and High-Tech innovation and try to get a taste of their climate action intentions. While wandering the winding back streets of Sevilla, Cordoba, and Granada, with some buildings dating back to as early as the 11th century, I couldn’t help but notice the amazing mixture of incredibly old and groundbreakingly new culture that exists here. It turns out their current CleanTech and Electric Vehicle industry models the same mix of old and new: while Spain is joining the leading sustainability and innovative competitors of the world, the country will have some infrastructure obstacles to navigate over the coming years.

Electric vehicles, for example, are gaining popularity with each month of sales but still lag behind due to the lack of accessible charging stations. According to the Spanish Association of Auto Importers, electric vehicles of all sizes were “…up 9.9% from 3,665 in the same period of 2017 but is just 0.4% of the 978,050 registrations of all vehicle types.” While growth in any quantity is a good sign, there is much work to be done to encourage further market penetration. Luckily, two Spanish energy companies, Iberdrola and Endesa are setting out to cover their side of the Iberian peninsula with enough charging stations that drivers can confidently traverse the country without range anxiety within the next few years.

Another business-boosting strategy popping up in Spain are business clusters. AVAESEN is a cluster based in Valencia that aims to grow startups by connecting them “…with bigger corporates in our cluster, but also with municipalities, with industries, to test and scale up their solutions.” This cluster has benefitted multiple sustainably focused companies including Aerox that created a special coating for wind turbine blades to increase efficiency and lessen the cost of operations. Clusters are not a uniquely Spanish phenomenon but can be the key in any country to make new ideas into fully scaled companies. Electra itself is a part of a Boston-based cluster called TiE Scale Up and is currently focused on a similar growth strategy with the help of the investment group’s collective knowledge, experience, and connections.

Traveling across Europe so far has made it evident that CleanTech and Electric Vehicle markets often face the same barriers to entry no matter the country. Revolutionary products in any field take time to make it into the hands of the people who need them the most, and movements that shift our way of life the way electrification does often are no exception. The greater the push for electrification and clean energy is within local economies, the greater the international success the CleanTech movement will have. With this in mind, I can only be hopeful that our green economies and innovations will transform the world into the high-tech, sustainable place it can be.