It will get ugly before it gets pretty. This is a very common phrase used by bricklayers who must go through the process of destroying and rebuilding a structure for it to recover its esthetic and value. It would seem that the transition to renewable energies in Catalonia must undergo the same process. Resistance from the rural and agricultural sectors is now added to a long list of obstacles for clean energy progress in the region.
The Unió de Pagesos workers union leads the pushback from agricultural sectors against sacrificing agricultural land to build solar photovoltaic or wind farms.
The organization’s spokesmen state that these initiatives will bring a “severe impact” for rural spaces. Hence, they advocate for a “democratic, decentralized model with territory participation.”
The decree that sparked the discord
The Catalonian government’s Consell de Govern approved an executive order in November 2019 containing urgent measures for the climate emergency and promoting renewable energies. The text eliminated administrative barriers for solar and wind power implementation. Furthermore, it solves several aspects of the Law for Climate Change that had been declared unconstitutional.
The instrument derogated Decree 147/2009, which limited the implementation of wind and photovoltaic plants in Catalonia. It established a new faster legal process. In order to meet the goals of the Law for Climate Change, Catalonia must have 4,000 MW installed wind capacity and 6,000 MW installed solar capacity by 2030. It currently has 1,207 MW and 276 MW, respectively.
This regulation modifies the Urban Planning Law to simplify the installation of renewable energies in urban areas. The idea is to favor self-consumption systems installations in buildings and public spaces in cities.
This new regulation is in line with the declaration of climate emergency issued by the Catalonian regional government and parliament. Its purpose is to help define a regulatory framework to boost the installation of large-scale self-consumption projects. Authorities have said that this is a crucial element to reaching the economic goals set for 2030. Based on this, renewable energies will account for 50% of Catalonia’s power demand.
Opposition from Unió de Pagesos
However, Unió de Pagesos opposes this regulation. The union considers that the Government of the Generalitat is not complying comply with the provisions of Law 16/2017 on climate change regarding the measures to be adopted in the renewable energy field. These initiatives stipulate that the proximity of renewable power production to consumption centers should be prioritized.
Far from it, they consider that Decree-Law 16/2019 has sparked an avalanche of requests for new wind and solar plants concentrated in regions that, for the most part, already have a high density of this type of facility.
Unió de Pagesos said it opposes the model of concentration of solar and wind farms in undeveloped land. In their opinion, these initiatives have severe impacts on agricultural spaces, the environment, and the landscape.
They assure that it generates serious consequences such as damages to agricultural plots and irrigation systems, among others.
“In this sense, the union requires the Government and the projects’ promoters to present the analyzes of the affectations to agrarian spaces, since each and every one of the 17 sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda must be adequately attended to.”
165 of the 424 new wind turbines will be located in Ebro, 106 in Lleida County, 90 in Tarragona, and 63 in the central districts. As to the 710 new photovoltaic plants: 573 will be located in Lleida, 54 in the central districts, 40 in Tarragona, and 3 in Girona.
For its part, Unió de Pagesos considers that “if these new plants are installed in areas already overcrowded by these facilities, it will be impossible for them to opt for an alternative, more democratic, collaborative and involved energy model in the territory, as provided for in the energy transition law being drafted by the Catalan Government.”
Alternatives for the transition
The union acknowledges the need to advance in the implementation of renewable energies “but not at any cost”. They advocate for a transition to an energy model based on renewables, with planning that prioritizes the proximity of renewably sourced power to consumption centers and prevents the concentration of infrastructures in a limited space.
In this sense, it defends a model based on smaller installations, with a significant development of self-consumption and distributed generation. They sustain that the priority must be solar panel installation, preferably in existing rooftops in urban areas that have grid connection to “minimize the evacuation lines’ impact on the territory.”
A chain of obstacles
This rejection from the agrarian and rural sectors is the most recent in a series of problems that the transition to renewables has had to face in Catalonia. In the past 10 years, the green energy sector has been in the midst of a collapse.
The companies in the sector agree that the decree for the implementation of renewable energy in 2009 was responsible for the paralysis of new clean source projects.
The associations pointed out that the aforementioned decree imposed such draconian conditions that, in practice, it makes the implementation of new projects impossible, as has happened in other parts of the Spanish state.
Many of these problems were solved precisely with the new decree last year. Therefore, the companies in the sector welcomed the new standard approved last November.
The rejection of the Unió de Pagesos union adds a new element of distortion to the process. The tale of disagreements in the transition from Catalonia to renewable energy to be far from over.
For more information, check Energía16