MADRID -- "We've got to make sure we're building sources of energy for the future, not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now," President Barack Obama said last fall during the second presidential debate, before a skeptical Mitt Romney. "That's why we've invested in solar and wind power, biofuels and energy-efficient cars."
These words sounded like celestial music to Spanish energy companies, and Obama's reelection has been cause for celebration here. Spanish companies have been leading developers of solar and wind power, and have invested billions of dollars in the U.S. in recent years. With America's push to develop the clean energy even further, there is an opportunity to greatly increase Spain's output in these sectors, beyond regional partners like Latin America.
In recent years, Spanish investments in the U.S. have increased sevenfold, reaching $45 billion dollars in 2011, according to government data. Next year, the Spanish company Abengoa Solar is expected to complete construction of Solana, the world's largest solar plant, in Gila Bend, Ariz.
Another Spanish company, Iberdrola, claims to be the second-largest wind operator in the U.S. wind energy sector behind Florida Power Energy, with 2.7 million customers in 23 states. Fully 38 percent of the company's total energy production comes from the U.S.
During Obama's first term, Iberdrola received over $1 billion in grants from the U.S. Treasury Department as part of the economic stimulus package -- reportedly the largest amount ever awarded to a renewable energy company anywhere.
"The U.S. has been essential to our business in recent years," said a spokesman for Iberdrola, who noted that Obama's continued support for wind energy is "something we consider very positive."
"Although energy prices are falling and there is uncertainty about the future, with Romney we wouldn’t have had such high expectations," the spokesman said.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind could be the source of 20 percent of U.S. energy by 2030. No wonder, then, that other renewable energy companies, including Acciona and Gamesa, are also focusing most of their business in the U.S.
"Several companies have come here in recent years and we anticipate a second wave during this second term," said Ramon Gil-Casares, Spain's ambassador in Washington. "Due to the [economic] crisis, Spain's image has not been the best lately, but we trust that the $45 billion investment that Spain maintains in the U.S. will continue to increase," he assured HuffPost Spain. In total, he stated, Spanish companies create 70,000 direct jobs and 300,000 indirect jobs in the U.S., making Spain its 13th-largest investor.
Beyond clean energy, large Spanish companies also aspire to build bridges, roads and trains in the U.S. Obama has said that investing in infrastructure remains a priority for his second term. Such investments could help Spanish companies expand their businesses beyond Latin America.
"Before coming to the U.S., Spanish companies already had a great experience in Latin America, a more obvious market, but which doesn’t offer the same legal security as the U.S.," said Manuel Romera, director of the financial department at Instituto de Empresa Business School, one of the leading business schools in Spain.
Construction company Sacyr, for example, won a $3.2 billion contract to expand the Panama Canal. The oil company Repsol, on the other hand, was less fortunate. Last year, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, decided to nationalize YPF, the local subsidiary. The move caused a diplomatic rift between Spain and Argentina, with Madrid threatening trade retaliation and claiming that Buenos Aires had "broken the friendship" between the two nations.
There is no such risk in the U.S., where the political and economic climate continue to favor private businesses, and where there are more opportunities for new public infrastructure contracts both statewide and locally. For example, in 2012, the Spanish company ACS (Actividades de Construcción y Servicios) was granted $925 million dollars by the state of New York to lead the development of the city’s subway. A consortium led by Ferrovial will receive $1.5 billion dollars for the construction of U.S. Route 460 in Virginia. And FCC was given $725 million dollars to build the Gerald Desmond bridge in Los Angeles, a work promoted by the local Port Authority and the California government. FCC alone aspires to secure $9 billion dollars in contracts in the U.S. in the next few years.
Improving U.S. investments will be a top priority for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who will travel to Washington in the spring to celebrate his first official meeting with Obama.
Barack Obama (2009)
Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as 44th U.S. president at the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2009.
George W. Bush (2005)
U.S. President George W. Bush delvers his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, 2005 in Washington.
George W. Bush (2001)
President George W. Bush stands at the podium before giving his inaugural address on January, 20 2001 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Bill Clinton (1997)
President Bill Clinton calls for national unity during his Jan. 20, 1997 inaugural address on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Bill Clinton (1993)
President Bill Clinton delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in on Jan. 20, 1993 in Washington.
George H.W. Bush (1989)
U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush addresses the audience outside the Capitol on Jan. 20, 1989 in Washington.
Ronald Reagan (1985)
Ronald Reagan delivers his inaugural address in the Rotunda of the Capitol on Monday, Jan. 21, 1985 in Washington.
Ronald Reagan (1981)
President Ronald Reagan waves with his wife, Nancy, after being sworn in as 40th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 1981.
Jimmy Carter (1977)
Jimmy Carter is shown in January 1977, speaking after taking the oath of office as President of the United States.
Richard Nixon (1973)
President Richard M. Nixon delivers his inaugural address on January 20, 1973 in Washington.
Richard Nixon (1969)
President Richard M. Nixon dedicates his new administration to the cause of "peace among nations" as former President Lyndon Johnson, right, listens to the inaugural speech Jan. 20, 1969 in Washington.
Lyndon Johnson (1965)
President Lyndon B Johnson is shown as he waves goodbye to crowds from the presidential reviewing stand, after the long day of inaugural parades, on Jan. 20, 1965 in Washington.
John F. Kennedy (1961)
This Jan. 20, 1961 black and white file photo shows U.S. President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address after taking the oath of office at Capitol Hill in Washington.
Dwight Eisenhower (1957)
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Dwight Eisenhower (1953)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the country's new first lady, Mamie, wave to spectators from an open car as they leave the Capitol at the start of the inauguration parade, January 20, 1953.
Harry Truman (1949)
President Harry S. Truman delivers inaugural address from Capitol portico, January 20, 1949, after taking oath of office for his first full term as chief executive.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1945)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, speaking during his fourth inauguration ceremony.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941)
President Franklin Roosevelt speaking from the inaugural stand on Jan. 20, 1941.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1937)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt are seen up Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade in Washington, Jan. 4, 1937.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks at the podium during his March 4, 1933 inaugural address in Washington.
Herbert Hoover (1929)
President Herbert Hoover delivers his inaugural speech on March 4, 1929 at the Capitol in Washington.
Calvin Coolidge (1925)
Calvin Coolidge at his inauguration on March 4, 1925 in Washington.
Warren G. Harding (1921)
The 29th American President, Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865 - 1923), delivering his inaugural address from a stand at the East portico of the Capitol building on March 4, 1921 in Washington.
Woodrow Wilson (1917)
This general view shows the second inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson on March 5, 1917 in Washington.
Woodrow Wilson (1913)
Former American President William Howard Taft (1857 - 1930), right, and Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924), at Wilson's inauguration as the 28th President of the United States of America.
William Howard Taft (1909)
William Howard Taft at his inauguration on March 4, 1909 in Washington.
Theodore Roosevelt (1905)
The inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt, 1905.
William McKinley (1901)
American President William McKinley (1843 - 1901) leaving for the Capitol for his inauguration for a second term.
William McKinley (1897)
In this image provided by the Library of Congress Major William McKinley takes his oath of office during the 1897 inauguration in Washington.
Grover Cleveland (1893)
President Grover Cleveland reads his inaugural address from the steps of the Capitol building on March 4, 1893 in Washington.
Benjamin Harrison (1889)
This drawing depicts the inauguration of Benjamin Harrison as he takes the oath of office on March 4, 1889 in Washington.
James Garfield (1881)
This general view shows the inauguration of James A. Garfield, the nation's 20th president, on March 4, 1881 in Washington.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877)
The public inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes takes place in front of the U.S. Capitol on March 5, 1877 in Washington, D.C.
Ulysses S. Grant (1873)
This artist's rendition shows the second inauguration for Ulysses S. Grant as he takes the oath of office on March 4, 1873 in Washington.
Ulysses S. Grant (1869)
Photo shows Inauguration Day, March 4, 1869, when Ulysses S. Grant took the oath of office as the 18th President of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln (1865)
A scene in front of the East front of the U.S. Capitol is seen during President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration, 1865, just six weeks before his assassination.
Abraham Lincoln (1861)
Abraham Lincoln takes the oath of office as the 16th president of the United States on March 4, 1861 in Washington.
James Buchanan (1857)
President James Buchanan delivers his address after being sworn in as the 15th president of the United States on March 4, 1857 in Washington.