Wind of austerity chills Spanish turbine industry

Updated 15 July 2013

Wind of austerity chills Spanish turbine industry

AOIZ, Spain: Wearing face masks and wielding sanders, two workers smooth the surface of a massive fan for a wind turbine at the Gamesa factory in Aoiz, a town in Navarre, northern Spain.
But in hard times, it will be winds in Finland, not Spain, that make the finished product spin.
Last year, the plant delivered a wind turbine park to Malaga in southern Spain and another to Burgos, in the north, said factory manager Javier Trapiella.
"Now we don't produce for Spain," he added.
"It has all stopped."
For green energy producers, Spain has changed from a paradise with generous public support to a markedly less agreeable home.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government is imposing an austerity regime to plug an accumulated energy sector deficit of 26 billion euros ($34 billion).
On Friday, the horizon darkened further with the approval of reforms cutting annual state aid for renewable energies by more than one billion euros.
The change is enough to place at risk huge strides in the Spanish wind energy industry.
Spain ranks as number four globally in terms of installed wind energy but has dropped to seventh place in terms of new projects, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.
"For Spain, wind energy has really been an energy revolution. In 20 years we have gone from producing zero kilowatts to producing 20 percent of national demand today," said Heikki Willstedt Mesa, director of energy policy at the Spanish Wind Energy Association.
In the fourth largest economy of the euro zone, wind is often the main source of electricity.
"Unfortunately, since 2009 the government has slowed the development of wind energy in Spain with various regulatory measures," he said.
Cuts in state aid of 35 percent, removing subsidies for new turbines since the start of 2013, and then the latest changes announced on Friday: The sector has been hit hard and manufacturers are the first to feel the pain.
In February, French group Alstom closed two factories in Spain and laid off 373 employees.
"The economic crisis and the absence of a stable regulatory framework have slowed domestic demand," the group said, stressing the lack of activity in its Spanish sites.
Spain's Gamesa, which is among the industry's world leaders, gave the same reasons as it laid off 606 of its 4,800 staff in Spain and closed two blade factories in recent months.
Gamesa notably pointed to the "regulatory uncertainty" , the persistent economic crisis and financial problems in the sector, especially in southern Europe.
Making a wind turbine is almost a work of craftsmanship, said Gamesa's Trapiella. "You need good hands," he said. The fiberglass and carbon fiber blades measure 62.5 meters (205 feet) and weigh 15 tonnes each.
When finished they will leave by truck overnight for the port of Bilbao to be shipped by sea to Finland. About 40 blades are scheduled for delivery by February.
"If 90 percent of our sales were in Spain 10 years ago, it is the exact opposite today with 90 percent of sales coming from abroad," said Jose Antonio Cortajarena, Gamesa's corporate managing director.
"We are in more than 50 countries," he said, citing Mexico, Brazil and India as key markets.
"Even if our corporate headquarters are in Spain, the risk, our dependance on the Spanish market, is limited."
The Spanish Wind Energy Association is not so reassured.
"We have destroyed 25 jobs a day in the wind energy sector since the start of the year and the industry is on the borderline, it cannot take any more cuts," it said.
The industry has already suffered heavily.
"Of the 43,000 jobs we had in the wind industry in 2009, there are only 23,000 left, said Sergio de Otto, secretary general of the business group Fundacion Renovables (Renewables Foundation).


Case against Ghosn excuse to get him out of Nissan, claim lawyers

Updated 13 November 2019

Case against Ghosn excuse to get him out of Nissan, claim lawyers

  • The former motor giant chief’s legal team has alleged that both his arrest and the prosecution efforts have been illegal

TOKYO: The drama surrounding the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, former boss of motor giants Nissan and Renault, has yet to reach its climax. Yet the plot continues to thicken with each new development.

On Monday, Ghosn’s defense lawyers unveiled court submissions highlighting the circumstances in which the 65-year-old executive was arrested and subsequently held in detention.

“We believe that Mr. Carlos Ghosn is innocent. We believe that the arrest and the prosecution efforts thus far are illegal and therefore Mr. Ghosn should be immediately released,” the head of his defense team, Junichiro Hironaka, said during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo on Monday.

Hironaka claimed that Nissan wanted to kick out Carlos Ghosn from the company and therefore put together a team dedicated to searching around for something that would justify them to do that.

“This prosecution motion wasn’t initiated because the prosecution side believed that Mr. Ghosn had committed an illegal act. Fundamentally there is a problem with this being treated as a criminal act,” he said.

Hironaka further said that the prosecutor’s office is supposed to be acting in the public good for everyone and not behalf of a specific corporation.

“From the investigation level, there were various problems and mistakes with this case. Furthermore, the Japanese persecution office can’t reach overseas so they rely on Nissan employees to go into Mr. Ghosn’s offices and residences and removed objects illegally,” he said.

Hironaka said there is no evidence to support the alleged wrongdoing claim that Nissan made payments to SBA in Oman, and Ghosn re-directed that money to himself or his family.

“The amounts that were paid by Nissan matched exactly the amounts due to SBA,” he said.

The lawyer had a similar response to the reports connecting some donations by Ghosn to a school in Lebanon that would somehow benefit himself. “There is absolutely no evidence or factual basis for indicating that,” Hironaka said.

He said that his team is trying to access correct information and find out what evidence the prosecution might have.

“I have made an effort to share information with the media, including the foreign media, during this whole pre-trial motion,” he said.

Under the Japanese system, the prosecutors are not required to disclose all the evidence at their disposal. Japanese law requires that prosecutors must disclose anything related to any evidence related to the specific filings they make.

They must also disclose any evidence that is related to the filings that are made by the defense counsel. However, there is no requirement for them to disclose evidence from other parts.

Ghosn was arrested at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Nov. 19, 2018, on multiple charges related to his stewardship of the two companies.

The cases involved not only Nissan-Renault and Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors (part of the Franco-Japanese alliance), but also the Japanese and French governments along with various key players from Asia and the Middle East.

Nissan was on the brink of bankruptcy in March 1999, with about 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) in interest-bearing debt.

This is when it entered a capital partnership with major French automaker Renault SA. Ghosn has been credited for turning the company around dramatically since then.

However, fears that the high-profile CEO and chairman was planning to merge Nissan into a much larger multinational motor alliance appeared to have fueled speculation regarding the future of the company.

It was reportedly argued within Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government that the automaker would no longer be recognizably Japanese.

The case has larger ramifications and the two governments have routinely become involved in discussions related to its future.

According to news reports, when Macron and Abe met in Buenos Aires, the French president asked that the Franco-Japanese alliance be maintained.

On being asked by Arab News Japan about reports of a prosecution team visiting Saudi Arabia and Oman, Hironaka confirmed that the visit indeed took place after Ghosn’s arrest.

“However, we have not been given any access to any information that they may or may not have gathered there,” he said.