The energy situation in Catalonia is very worrying and all of us who live in it should be very concerned: everyone, from the government to any citizen, through the institutions of civil society, be they companies or NGOs.
Let’s see what the worrying situation is: only 8% of the final energy available for use is renewable and 92% is non-renewable. Catalonia has flagrantly breached the directives of the EU Climate and Energy Package 20-20-20 (adopted in 2009).
To maintain the current energy system, of every 100 units of energy (primary) that enter the system, only 65% are transformed into final available energy.
Therefore, it is a very inefficient system, since 35% of primary energy is wasted (25% in transformations, 7% in own consumption and 2% in losses due to transport and distribution). In addition to being inefficient, it is a generator of greenhouse gases and radioactive waste.
This, just in terms of generation. If, in addition, the entire techno-ecological chain of fossil and nuclear materials is taken into account, the reality is much more scandalous, since it shows what we could call clear ecocides.
We come from a situation of practical paralysis of renewable projects
We are facing a situation of full climate emergency, but greenhouse gas emissions in Catalonia are not on the way to decrease, and if nothing is done, radioactive waste will continue to be generated, as well as emissions of radioactivity to the air and water, administratively authorized by the Spanish government.
That an energy shift is necessary in Catalonia is something that almost no one no longer doubts. And how can it be done? We come from a situation of practical paralysis of renewable projects, which has meant that a large part of Catalan society has not done the homework that should have been done, especially after the Paris agreement against climate change (12/12 / 2015).
And now, the new European climate objectives, which must be complied with, oblige us, yes or yes, to act in Catalonia, if we want to be consistent with our Europeanism.
Any delay or inaction will expose us to the world, apart from making us dependent on renewable generation from outside Catalonia and the dirty fossil and nuclear generation that still exists today.
Any delay or inaction will expose us to the world, make us dependent on renewable generation from outside Catalonia and on dirty fossil and nuclear generation
The challenge is monumental. Having an energy system where all services (electrical, motor and thermal) are provided by renewable energies, in the year 2040, means making huge investments (in the order of more than 60,000 million euros, but the savings would be greater than 200,000 millions). This level of investment represents € 8,000 per inhabitant).
Are all the citizens of Catalonia willing to put their savings into creating and growing a system that directs us towards 100% renewable? And, is a part of the citizenry willing to put them for that part of fellow citizens who cannot or do not want to? These are the questions we should answer.
Territories with natural resources such as sun, wind, water or biomass to produce energy have the right to benefit from it and the responsibility to take advantage of them
Many territories in Catalonia are rich in what is conventionally called resources natural, those that are manifested in certain spaces, where the interaction of the flows of the biosphere with the orography and natural systems, makes them places where the sun and wind, water and biomass can be used to produce energy that society can use. And these territories have the right to benefit from it and the responsibility to take advantage of it. And this should be respected and encouraged.
My opinion, forged in the practice of more than 40 years of pro-renewables activism and practice in project implementation, is that we cannot afford to delay much needed and urgent action any longer. And to face the doubts that some people raise, I dare to make some proposals to unblock the situation and make it socially acceptable.
The regions should be spaces that lead the energy transition in Catalonia. Instead of waiting for someone to tell what to do, or to come up with ‘magical’ plans, this administrative field should immediately set ambitious goals to develop renewable energy. How?
The counties could be equipped with daring roadmaps for 2030, with well-quantified objectives, and with a policy specifically dedicated to renewable energies, associating local communities, citizens, peasants and other local actors. They could be set as an objective, for example, to ensure that a significant percentage of investment in renewables is in the hands of local actors.
These public institutions should make all public spaces, roofs and terraces of buildings and public facilities available to the public to turn them into solar gardens and roofs and solar terraces that generate electricity. For example, a goal could be that 100% of the roofs of public buildings are equipped with solar PV before the end of the year 2026.
The regions should make all public spaces, roofs and terraces of buildings and public facilities available to the public to turn them into solar gardens and roofs and solar terraces that generate electricity.
The regions should encourage citizens to invest in the capital of projects that arise or are proposed in the territory, either directly, or through mixed economy companies or investment funds. For example, an objective could be that 30% of the population of the region be shareholders of renewable projects, before the end of the year 2030. And that a hundred citizen projects materialize in each region (ten projects each year ).
In the regions, communities and inhabitants should be mobilized to involve them in projects in their territory. The work of communication to the community is key to encourage and / or develop renewable energy projects in the territory. It is desirable to support the implementation of campaigns to mobilize savings from citizens towards renewable energy projects in the region, to act as a lever for the dissemination of the dynamics of citizen participation.
Local groups should promote projects and citizen cooperatives as they are a lever to raise awareness among the inhabitants of the region and to materialize a social appropriation of the technologies that make the energy transition possible. Each citizen renewable energy project mobilizes many people in its environment and the region must lead the communication of each initiative that arises, to enable both the raising of funds and citizen involvement.
It is time for Catalonia to abandon the mirage of easy energy and start walking on the path of climate justice
These are some of the proposals that could make it easier for Catalonia to get out of the dominant mirage throughout the twentieth century – and that has made it possible to have energy easily and without considering the ecological and social impacts, since the current system has exported practically all of them promoting a serious ecological and social lack of solidarity – and begin to walk the path of climate justice, practicing ecological solidarity, because if renewable energies do something in a country is to internalize, democratizing them, the effects that energy generation may cause.
The energy transition, or we will do it, or they will do it for us. Like it or not. Delaying it or putting obstacles in the way is a serious ecological irresponsibility, which as a society we cannot afford.
Who could be interested in Catalonia not making progress in the energy transition?
Josep Puig Boix is vice president of EUROSOLAR – European Association for Renewable Energies