The deployment of renewables in Spain is provoking an image that is less curious: while the employers are wrapped in the ecological flag, the environmentalists are resisting the new times… The world upside down. In reality, it is the eternal pulse to know who has the real power in our society, whether the economy and the Ibex 35 or politics and the general interest. Capitalism or democracy. Whoever controls energy controls the world, or at least the possibilities of development and future of a country like ours. If this is always true, it is even more so in a context like the current one, marked by the energy crisis and a military escalation in Europe that, as Rafael Poch has warned, could unleash a world war.
In recent months, we have observed with astonishment the increase in business and media pressure to accelerate the implementation of renewable energy generation facilities, with the hackneyed argument of “winning the battle against climate change”. We celebrate what is positive about this, but we warn that such pressure is not born from an impulse committed to improving the living conditions of citizens, but rather from a desire for business that, in the current war context, has seen in renewables a vein of gold that can be disguised as noble objectives.
Of course, changing the energy model is essential to face the climate emergency, but the ecological transition is, or should be, much more than a change in energy sources if we want to avoid the “inhospitable planet” predicted by David Wallace-Wells . It is not a matter, allow us the expression, of replacing the gasoline hose with a plug and everything remaining the same: our way of living and producing is socially unfair and ecologically unsustainable and we must move towards patterns of life and consumption that are socially just and ecologically sustainable.
The ecological transition has to do with limiting emissions into the atmosphere, without a doubt, but also, among many other things, with the conservation of biodiversity, with the defense of nature and the environment, with the improvement of the air that we breathe, with the maintenance and quality of the existing water masses, with reducing our voracity in the extraction of resources, with the abandonment of the myth of growth as a synonym of human well-being, with changing consumption habits and understanding our mobility. The energy transition, in short, becomes essential to advance in the decarbonisation process, lower the price of energy and reduce our dependence on the outside, but it must coexist with other human needs and not sacrifice them.
The haste of certain economic agents cannot be a guide for political action. Renewable energies require extensive territories for their implementation and have a profound impact on them in terms of affecting the landscape, damaging habitats, sacrificing agricultural activities, destroying natural corridors and, in general, territorial degradation and disruption. In order to govern this process, it is essential to improve public planning instruments, guarantee a global vision of it and ensure effective social participation in decisions. In short, an ecological and territorial planning that makes it possible to reconcile short-term needs with longer-term strategic objectives, as provided for in the Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy of the Valencian Community in its articles 131 and 52, respectively.
Haste and shortcuts are often counterproductive. The deployment of renewables is fueling speculative processes that are reminiscent of the housing bubble experienced years ago. Parallel to the pressure to facilitate the development of large photovoltaic plants, there is an avalanche of projects promoted by the usual energy companies or by investment funds that have decided to join the party, from Iberdrola to Gamesa, passing by Acciona, Renovalia, Repsol or Gas Natural. It’s no coincidence, obviously. These are projects that involve the occupation of hundreds of hectares, sometimes divided to favor their approval. Always in rural areas, where the land is cheaper and there are few people to resist. With expropriations included appealing to the public utility. Although then immense infrastructures are needed to transport the electricity produced. Capitalism, like a new Minotaur, demands human sacrifices.
However, reality is stubborn. As much as the energy companies and their media speakers repeat it, it is false that the development of renewables in Spain is lagging behind. According to the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), between 5,000 and 6,000 MW/year of renewable energy should be installed, including wind and photovoltaic energy. Well, in 2019, according to official data, 6,500 MW were installed, and in 2020 and 2021 (covid-19) 5,000 and 5,600, respectively. In 2022, in the absence of definitive data, it is estimated that the figures will be similar to those of 2019, or even higher than these. It is evident that, at the current rate of photovoltaic installation, our country could reach a global figure of more than 50,000 MW in operation by 2030, while the PNIEC establishes a target of 39,000 MW. With regard to wind energy, at an installation rate of 2,000 MW/year, we would be very close to the 50,000 that the PNIEC contemplates for 2030 and, in any case, the sum of both would easily exceed the objectives.
If we do not want to end up lamenting the excesses of a new speculative bubble, we must plan, define the objectives and, let’s say it clearly, place energy under the control of a powerful public sector that, through its own companies, pushes towards a structural transformation of the electricity market and contribute to eradicating energy poverty. A new approach that promotes self-consumption, favors the development of energy communities and establishes with rigor and transparency where the large plants that are needed can be located. We need it all, but well governed. And it is more necessary than ever, because the war is transforming the European economies, and will do so even more in the future. As Emmanuel Todd affirms, the conflict brings us back to the real economy, allows us to understand what is the true wealth of nations and their ability to satisfy social needs, also from the energy point of view.
This time it is necessary to plan and intervene from the public sphere to do things well: bet on the energy transition while protecting the territory. It is a complex job, but also full of opportunities. There is nothing and no one left. Let’s fight so that it is directed by the general interest and not by the same economic selfishness that has done so much damage to our people.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits