Monday, February 6, 2023

Renewables and the Sector: We Need It

The deployment of renewables in Spain is evoking an image that is less curious: while employers are wrapped in the ecological flag, environmentalists are protesting the new times…the world turned upside down. Indeed, it is the eternal pulse to know who holds the real power in our society, whether the economy and Ibex 35 or politics and the common interest. Capitalism or Democracy. Whoever controls energy controls the world, or at least controls the growth and future prospects of a country like ours. If this is always true, it is even more so in a context such as the current one, marked by an energy crisis and a military escalation in Europe that, as Rafael Poch warns, could start a world war.

In recent months, we have seen a surprising increase in pressure from business and the media to accelerate the implementation of renewable energy generation facilities, with the clichéd argument of “winning the battle against climate change”. We celebrate what is positive about it, but we caution that such pressure is born not out of a committed impulse to improve the living conditions of citizens, but out of a desire for business, which is the result of the current war. Seen in context as a vein in renewable energy. of gold which may be disguised as noble motives.

Of course, confronting the climate emergency requires changing the energy model, but ecological transition is or must be much more than a shift in energy sources if we are to avoid the “inhumane planet” predicted by David Wallace-Wells . It is not a matter, allow 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 requires us to change our patterns of life and consumption. We must move towards those that are socially just and ecologically sustainable.

The ecological transition is without a doubt concerned with limiting emissions into the atmosphere, but also, among many other things, with the conservation of biodiversity, with the protection of nature and the environment, with the improvement of the air we breathe. With the maintenance and quality of existing water bodies, with reducing our gluttony in resource extraction, with discarding the myth of development as synonymous with human welfare, with changing consumption habits and our mobility With understanding Energy transition, in short, becomes necessary to move forward in the decarbonization process, reduce the cost of energy and reduce our dependence on the outside, but it must co-exist with other human needs and not at the sacrifice of them. needed.

The haste of some economic agents cannot be a guide to political action. Renewable energies require vast areas for their implementation and have profound effects on them in terms of affecting the landscape, damaging habitats, abandoning agricultural activities, destroying natural corridors and, in general, regional degradation and disruption. Does matter. To control this process, it is necessary to improve the means of public planning, guarantee its global vision and ensure effective social participation in decisions. In short, an ecological and territorial plan that makes it possible to reconcile short-term needs with long-term strategic objectives, as provided for in the Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy of the Valencian Community, respectively, in its articles 131 and 52.

Haste and shortcuts are often counterproductive. The deployment of renewables is fueling speculative processes reminiscent of the housing bubble experienced years ago. In parallel with the pressure to facilitate the development of large photovoltaic plants, there is an avalanche of projects promoted by general energy companies or investment funds that have decided to join the party, from Iberdrola to Gamesa, passing through Acciona, Renovalia, Repsol or Gas Natural. This is no coincidence, of course. These are projects that involve the occupation of hundreds of hectares, sometimes divided in favor of their approval. Always in rural areas, where land is cheaper and there are fewer people to protest. Appeals to a public utility are included with the eviction. However then transportation of the generated electricity requires immense infrastructure. Capitalism, like a new minotaur, demands human sacrifices.

However, the reality is stubborn. As much as the energy companies and their media speakers repeat it, it is false that the development of renewable energy 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 figures, 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 figures, it is estimated that the figures will be similar to, or even higher than, 2019. It is clear that, at the current rate of photovoltaic installation, our country could reach the global figure of more than 50,000 MW in operation by 2030, while PNIEC has set a target of 39,000 MW. With regard to wind power, at an installation rate of 2,000 MW/year, we would be very close to the 50,000 MW that PNIEC is considering for 2030 and, in any case, the sum of the two would easily exceed the objectives.

If we do not want to end up in the excesses of a new speculative bubble, we must plan, define objectives and, to put it plainly, place energy under the control of a powerful public sector, which through its companies increases. A structural transformation of the electricity market and contribution to energy poverty alleviation. A new approach that promotes self-consumption, supports the development of energy communities and establishes with rigor and transparency where large plants are required. We need all this, but well governed. And it is needed more than ever, because the war is transforming European economies, and will do so even more in the future. As Emmanuel Todt affirms, conflict brings us back to the real economy, allowing us to understand what is the true wealth of nations and their ability to meet social needs, also from an energy perspective.

To do things well this time requires planning and intervention from the public sector: betting on the energy transition while protecting the sector. It is a complex task, but also one full of opportunities. There is nothing and no one left. Let us fight so that it is guided by the common good and not by the same economic self-interest that has caused so much harm to our people.

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Nation World News Desk
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