Spain - Commercial Guide
Green Technology

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2020-08-07


Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union after France in extension, covering an area of 504,030 km². Its abundance of natural resources includes four of the EU’s nine biogeographic regions and two of its four marine regions. Implementation of EU environmental law and policy, through significant assistance from EU funding, has contributed to the preservation and improvement of its rich environment. Overall, strengthened coordination and cooperation among all administrations has resulted in better environmental implementation.

The policies implemented by the Government of Spain, within the framework of the European Union, are aimed at rising to meet environmental challenges. Most Spanish environmental laws are derived from EU legislation. The EU published the second European Implementation Review (EIR) review in April 2019 to ensure the full implementation of EU environmental legislation.

Enforcement of environmental law in Spain works on three levels: national, regional and local. At the national level, and as a result of the recent change in government, there is a new ministry fully devoted to energy and environment, the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Its aim is to propose and execute the Government's policy on energy and the environment as Spain transitions to a more ecological and productive social model. Some areas related mainly to forestry environment and conservation, agricultural irrigation, marine reserves protection among others are under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food, always in conjunction with the Ministry of Ecological Transition. The Autonomous Regions, or Regional Governments, develop basic legislation in their territorial scope and approve regional environmental plans. At local level, the main environmental powers of the municipalities relate to municipal environmental permits, urban waste, water treatment, air pollution and noise limits. Spain is leading the creation and maintenance of sustainable urban populations. A large number of Spanish cities and towns are successfully pioneering smart city projects with actions covering a wide range of population sizes, climatic conditions, geographic locations, city structures and activities. Apart from these three levels, there are other national and regional bodies and agencies which take part in the enforcement of environmental law within specific sectors, such as hydrographic confederations, the Spanish Climate Change Office (OECC), the police in charge of the protection of the environment (Seprona), among others.  


Water is a problem for Spain. One of the main objectives of the Ministry of Ecological Transition is to guarantee that the water supply is sufficient and of the right quality throughout the country, while ensuring respect for the environment. According to a recent study from the Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation and the Spanish Association of Urban Water Management Services Companies, the annual average of real investment does not even reach 50 percent of what is necessary in urban waters. In this sense, this area needs an annual investment of USD 2.8 billion, up to USD 5.5 billion, to guarantee quality, its sustainability and face future challenges.

These improvement efforts are in conjunction with due management of extreme weather phenomena, floods and droughts, which represent a threat not only to public safety but also to the environment and the economic activities associated with water. Water planning by the central government is organized at two levels: river basin management plans and the national water plan. Despite new legislation, water management reform and substantial investments in some areas of Spain, water resources are not currently sustainably administered. Water quality in many rivers is sub-standard. The most significant pressures on surface water bodies in Spain is urban waste, followed by diffuse agriculture, abstraction or flow diversion for agriculture; surface water bodies, among others. Groundwater is used up faster than it is replenished.

Air Quality and Noise Pollution

Most of the emissions of several air pollutants have decreased significantly in Spain. Despite these reductions in emissions, additional efforts are needed to attain the emission reduction commitments (compared to 2005 emission levels) laid out in the new EU National Emissions Ceilings Directive 63 for 2020-2029 and for any year from 2030.  At the same time, air quality in Spain continues to give cause for concern. Spain and the rest of member states are now required to report both real-time and validated air quality data to the EU Commission. The persistent breaches of air quality requirements are being followed up by the EU Commission through infringement procedures covering all the member states concerned, including Spain. Spain must reduce the main emission sources through targeted actions.

Industrial Emissions

Spain policy objectives on industrial emissions are: protect air, water and soil; prevent and manage waste; improve energy and resource efficiency; and clean up contaminated sites. To achieve this, Spain should take an integrated approach to the prevention and control of routine and accidental industrial emissions. The industrial installations identified as having a significant environmental burden on emissions to water and generation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste are intensive poultry and pig farming, minerals, waste and the chemicals sector. In January 2020, the Spanish government informed on the development of a draft bill “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050” — effectively net-zero carbon emissions.

Current Environmental Investment Climate

According to the most recent available statistics from the official Spanish Statistics Institute, the national expenditure on Environmental Protection increased 5.5 percent in 2018 and represented 1.56 percent of GDP. The companies in that sector accounted for 47.3 percent of total spending, public administrations for 35.2 percent and households for 17.5 percent.  Green technologies are crucial for the economic recovery as they help save valuable resources such as energy and water. Spain has taken major steps to reinforce its environmental policy and institutional framework. In the private sector, the major Spanish multinationals in the construction and civil engineering sectors are active in the waste and water treatment areas of the environmental industry and are supportive of the government’s commitment to sustainability. Most of companies in the Spanish environmental sector use proprietary technology and a smaller proportion use primarily European environmental technology, with Germany as a leading supplier.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Demand for green equipment, technology, and services have decreased due to the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent government austerity measures in the recent years. The newly elected government is giving priority to environmental issues and concerns and implementation of environmental regulations. The fact of a stricter EU review to members states on environmental issues and solutions implemented to meet EU environmental directives puts greater pressure to Spain for improvements in pollution control and remediation. Increasing resources and programs underscore Spain’s commitment to this sector, especially in the areas of higher impact on the environment.


Spain’s growth prior to the 2008 economic crisis placed even greater pressure on the environment and the use of natural resources. Challenging economic conditions in the last decade have had an impact on the demand for new products and services. U.S. technology and services can play a significant role in some niche business areas where there is scope for action, especially where ongoing technological and process innovation is essential. As domestic opportunities have diminished over the last years, Spanish engineering and construction firms have gone abroad to work in foreign environmental and pollution control projects. These types of companies could be excellent potential clients for U.S suppliers in the environmental sector. Areas of opportunity could include: advanced technology for treating certain components of end-of-life; plastics treatment; hazardous waste treatment; soil remediation; water and wastewater treatment, among others. In urban areas, opportunities are in technology for smart pollution control and monitoring, green buildings, technology for the efficient use of resources (specially water), among others.

For a copy of the full market research report, please contact:

U.S. Commercial Service Spain:
Environmental Sector Specialist: Carmen Adrada

Tel: +34 91 3081542