The energy policy in Spain and Catalonia: the risks of separatist movements on the environment




The recent political turmoil in Spain and Catalonia has also arisen questions on how those separatist movements may threaten common agreements and targets on economic and environmental topics that are mostly a national business. As often demonstrated on these pages, the energetic and environmental agenda should be widely agreed (at EU level and worldwide); yet, so far national sovereign goals have been crucial. What if, in case of a highest degree of independence of local territories, the energy agenda become a local business?

So far, at national level, the Spanish energy sector is well developed and maintains a positive reputation globally, especially in renewable energy where it has become a world leader. Spain has leveraged its development by pledging to meet 40 percent of Gross Final Energy Demand through clean energy by 2020. Powersuppliers are continuing to implement previously registered renewable energyprojects in Spain, but the impact of new legislation has been to limit new investment. Further to the Energy Reform Bill, passed in December, 2012, in early June 2013, the Spanish government announced a substantial reduction in renewables subsidies. The reforms removed the previous feed-in tariffs system for power generators and substituted a new Regulated Asset Value-based system (or “reasonable profitability” system) and cut payments for renewables between 1.3€ to 1.4€ billion (USD1.7 to USD1.8 billion) per year. Such budget cuts have likely contributed to the growth in coal-based power generation seen in 2015. At the start of 2014, the impact of the switch to capacity-based incentives was unclear. All renewable sources now have to take the pool price of electricity based on “reasonable profitability” calculations, but the private sector has reservationsregarding how “reasonable profitability” is calculated.

Energy efficiency is a promising subsector in the Spanish economy
considering Spain is the 5th largest energy consumer in the European Union
and has legally obligated a shift towards smart city and smart grid
infrastructure. This combined with perennially high energy prices opens
significant business opportunities for energy efficiency solutions
companies. According to a 2014 European Commission Working Document, Spanish utilities have been replacing almost 28 million traditional electrical
meters in domestic properties since 2011 and plan to complete smart meter
implementation in 2018. Although a formal Cost-Benefit Analysis was not
conducted in the decision-making process, Spanish regulators see this smart
meter rollout as a crucial first step to developing a fully-integrated and
efficient national smart grid, which could lead to substantial business
opportunities for US firms. The private sector is also investing in smart grid development and R&D to promote increased competitiveness for Spanish utility providers. It is estimated that a 1€ investment in smart grid technology generates 2€ – 2.3€ in economic benefits.

Spain plays an important role in smart city development throughout Europe as
one of the 31 member countries of the  <> European
Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities. The Partnership
combines energy management, information and communications management, and
transportation management to come up with innovative solutions to the major
energy/environmental, societal, and health challenges facing European cities
today. With the aim of creating scalable and transferable solutions to
contribute for the European Union’s 20/20/20 climate action goals (20
percent emissions reductions, 20 percent production of all energy from
renewable resources, and a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency), it
seeks to reduce high energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, poor air
quality, and road congestion. The Partnership aims to overcome bottlenecks
impeding the changeover to smart cities, to co-fund demonstration projects,
and to help coordinate existing city initiatives and projects by pooling its
resources together. It ultimately hopes to establish strategic partnerships
between industry and European cities to develop the urban systems and
infrastructures of tomorrow. As a member country, Spain plans to implement
the Partnership’s recommendations in becoming a world leader in smart city
creation and management.
As largely agreed, smart energy, part of smart cities infrastructure, combines diverse new technologies to improve resource efficiency, increase sustainability, and improve citizens’ lives. The deployment of advanced energy technologies is
largely not a technical challenge. Rather organizational change in governments – and indeed society at large – is also necessary to better engage consumers and allow for cross-sectoral leveraging of assets. Making a city smart is therefore a very multidisciplinary challenge, bringing together city officials, innovative suppliers, national and international policymakers, academics, and civil society.

So far, it seems that the Catalan Government has been as “green” as the national one. Following the Spanish energy policy, on the 31st of  January 2017, the Catalan Government approved the final document of the Covenant for the Catalan Energy Transition with the aim of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2050. The priorities are to place the citizen at the center of energy model, ensuring security of supply and to establish an essential instrument in the fight against pollution. The
document has been discussed with the social partners and the energy sector,
and now come to Parliament for the presentation and negotiation with political groups. It is the result of a participatory process, started in 2015.
Generalitat de Catalunya, conscious of the challenge that means the climate
change for the citizens, economic sectors and natural systems, has been a
pioneering administration and has stood to the avant-garde of the impulse of
the climate policies since the year 2006, year of creation of the Catalan
Office of the Climatic Change.

After ten years, it has advanced in public planning in order to reduce emissions of gases with greenhouse effect (Mitigation Plan climate change 2006-2012 and Plan of the energy and climate change of Catalonia 2012-2020); in the area of the support to the companies (Program of voluntary agreements for the reduction emissions); and participating to international projects, forums and networks. In the area of climate change adaptation , the approval of the Catalan Strategy for climate change adaptation Horizon 2013-2020 meant an impulse for the policies of adaptation and had, for the first time, a technical document that agglutinated all the scientific knowledge of the moment about the impacts present and future of the climate change about the natural systems, territories and economic sectors in Catalonia; and a proposal of adaptation measures.



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