The missing link
There is a catch to the great success of the development of wind and solar technologies in Spain: It lacks citizen participation. Democratizing the generation of energy creates wealth for the whole of society and is key to facing the climatic emergency. This is why we need an energy REVOLUTION.
The success of renewables was mainly due to technological development policies, known as Feed-In-Tariffs (FIT). Due to pressure of utilities that make up the electrical oligopoly, the FITs were then abolished by governments in favour of auction systems that only benefit those who have the economic muscle to take on the risks that the auctions entail.
FIT policies in Germany were designed to benefit society as a whole, not only ecologically but also economically. They use renewable technologies to capture, transform and use the energy contained in biospheric flows. This has resulted in a massive citizen participation that responsibly exercises its right to the social appropriation of technology.
By the end of 2016, 100.3 GW of renewable capacity was operating in Germany. 42.5% were in the hands of citizens and only 5.4% were in the hands of the 4 large power utilities. The rest were in the hands of investment funds, small and local power companies, companies from various sectors. And while in 2001 there were only 66 citizen energy cooperatives, by 2015 they had increased to 1,000.
This was possible in Germany because of visionary political leaders such as Hermann Scheer and Hans-Josef Fell. As members of parliament, they were able to create policies to put technological development at the service of society. Hermann Scheer left it to us: “The technological revolution is not only due to technology itself, but also to the people who take advantage of the new possibilities offered by those technologies. From a technical innovation arises a social movement. The impulse for it can come from above. But the massive deployment is driven from below. The energy revolution is based establishing new baselines without asking permission from the people benefitting from the existing energy structures”.
In Spain, there are practically no collective projects promoted by citizens: in wind, the pioneer and sole project (at the moment) is “Living from the air of the sky” and there are only few projects in the solar sector (promoted by Aesol – today Acciona Solar -, mainly in Navarra and some promoted by Ecooo and Som Energía).
The way in which renewables have been legislated in Spain has resulted in practically all projects being in the hands of those who own capital or have easy access to it. As a consequence, and unlike many European countries where citizens have an active part in renewables, citizen participation in renewable projects in our country is almost non-existent. Citizen participation is the missing link between renewables and public wealth generation.
The cause of this is the usual practice of a purely extractive economy (since it usually has no relationship with the people who live in the area where the project is installed) which is an inheritance of the last century that should be overcome throughout the 21st century.
How can the situation be improved? I suggest that whenever a new renewable project is authorized, the people living in the area where the project will be installed should be given the opportunity to participate.
Democratizing the energy system means creating the political and administrative framework that allows and facilitates the active participation of citizens. And not only in domestic or family self-generation projects. Will the new Spanish government be able to recover the missing link between the development of renewables and society, creating the conditions for the emergence of collective energy projects with renewable technologies?
Pep Puig I Boix
Vice-president of EUROSOLAR
EUROSOLAR Spain’s activities 2018
During 2018 the Spanish EUROSOLAR section has done the following activities:
1) Participation in the Civil Society Working Group on Energy Policies for the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) to prepare a Report on the Energy Policies for Catalonia (2018 to present):
On the 31st of July meeting with the MH President of Catalonia, Mr. Quim Torra, to discuss the Catalonia’s energy transition. During the meeting it was submitted to the President the Report “Objectius de Política Energètica del Govern de la Generalitat de Catalunya” (Energy Policy Objectives of the Government of the Generalitat of Catalonia), prepared by the Working Group on Energy Policies for the Generalitat de Catalunya. On the 5th of September meeting with a senior official of foreign affairs of the Catalan Government to explore feasibility to start a project about methodology on Energy Transition of European Regions. On the 14th of September meeting in the House of the Catalan Republic, in Brussels, with the MH President Carles Puigdemont to discuss the Catalonia’s Energy Transition and deliver to him the Report on Energy Policies. On the 9th of October meeting with two members of the Catalan Parliament in charge of energy. On the 13th of November meeting with The Catalan Minister of Culture to deliver her the Report on Energy Policies and to share the vision about how to create the Energy Culture needed to implement the Transition to 100% renewables.
On the 15th of November meeting with the Catalan Minister of Companies and Knowledge (in charge of energy policy) and the General Director of Energy to discuss the energy situation of Catalonia, the necessary energy transition and the document delivered to the MH President. On the 29th of November meeting with the Catalan Minister of Rural Affairs (agriculture and livestock) to give her the Report on Energy Policies and to explore the feasibility to implement a territorial agreement to implement the energy transition. In January 2019 meeting with the Catalan Minister of Territory and Sustainability, the Secretary of Territory, the Secretary of Environment and Sustainability and the General Director of Environmental Quality and Climate Change, to give them the Report on Energy Policies and explore the feasibility to create an Energy Agency to led the Energy Transition in Catalonia.
2) Participation at the 5th Catalan Energy Congress (13-14 February 2018, Institute of Catalan Studies, Barcelona) and at the 6th Catalan Energy Congress (12-13 February 2019, Institute of Catalan Studies, Barcelona).
3) Participation on the XXXII Catalan Conference for a Sustainable Energy Future Without Nuclear Power (April 27th 2018, Barcelona), focused on Zero carbon Britain: Making it Happen.
On the other hand, The Spanish Section of Eurosolar decided to suspend the awarding of the Solar Prizes (Spanish edition 2018) before the serious events that are taking place in the Kingdom of Spain, since fall of 2017, carried out by their governments, their supreme court and their constitutional court, repeatedly violating the International Covenant of Civil and Political and Rights and the Spanish Constitution itself. But not all is negative, because in March 2018 the first community wind project was connected to the grid and commissioned. More than 600 people made it possible demonstrating that the organized civil society can address wind projects in spite of the retrograde regulations in force in Spain. Eurosolar Spain is also member of the Spanish Platform for Self-generation, participating in the lobby work done in front of the Spanish Government to change the regressive regulation developed by the Socialist Party and the Popular Party governments that ruled Spain since 2012.