Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Renewables' Absurdity Of Mallorca

Will Mallorca and the Balearics ever have a significant proportion of the islands' energy needs provided by renewable sources? Here are islands with a great deal of sun and a fair old amount of wind, to say nothing of waves and biomass. Of these, it is the former that should be heading the list of renewables. Should be, but when? Ever?

Depending on which figure you want to take, the percentage of renewable energy production in the Balearics is either around two or three per cent. The difference in the figure is immaterial. Either is pitifully low, and to give an indication as to just how low, one only has to consider a region like La Rioja. Stuck away on the northern mainland, it can manage to supply 80% of its energy needs from renewables. One imagines that this isn't being generated by converting surplus stocks of wine.

The Balearics is not alone in having enormous dependence on conventional sources of energy. The figures can again be quibbled over, but in the Canaries information from those islands' regional government puts renewable supply at around 10% of megawatts in 2011. There are those who would argue that it as low as 5%. Either way, it's more than the Balearics.

Both the Balearics and the Canaries are way behind the national average. La Rioja might be said to skew the figure of 30% green energy, but there again La Rioja isn't a big region. The national thirty per cent is at least ten times more than the Balearics. The situation here, as in the Canaries, is a total absurdity.

Just how absurd this situation is becoming can be determined from arguments surrounding the creation of two giant photovoltaic plants in Mallorca: one in Manacor and the other in Llucmajor. To the fore of the arguments against, almost unbelievably, are environmental pressure groups, such as GOB. It's not as though they are against solar energy - quite the contrary: they are expressing their opposition on the grounds of energy sovereignty. In other words, they don't want private investors reaping fat rewards from investment in plant and the energy companies controlling and charging for the supply. Laudable though this stance might be in seeking to retain control of natural sources of energy and to guarantee its cheap consumption, it isn't particularly realistic. If there were to be true and full energy sovereignty, derived from some form of co-operative mechanism and the public sector, then the chances of there being significant supply between now and climate change apocalypse are probably only slightly better than zero.

To further add to the absurdity, we have the situation being caused by stasis at national government. It is currently an acting government. It is not, therefore, making decisions or starting projects of an important nature, and one of these projects is firmly to do with solar and especially in the Balearics.

The ministry for energy and industry, which just so happens to be combined with tourism and is presided over by the Canaries PP politician, José Manuel Soria (he who has been so wedded to oil exploration off both archipelagos), should by now have set in motion procedures for an auction of solar energy. The government in fact passed a decree commanding this two years. Nothing is happening because the ministry, as with other ministries, is in acting mode, waiting to find out what is going to happen with the next government. This auction is meant to fund a first phase of solar energy production and supply in the Balearics. Because it isn't happening, various photovoltaic projects are on hold. GOB and the others have nothing to fear just at the moment. The 60 million euros investment in the Manacor solar park is on ice along with another 40 million or so euros of investment, included in which is a project to which I have previously referred on more than one occasion: one of around 16 million euros for a photovoltaic plant by the power station in Alcudia (which produces much of the islands' electricity). It would be capable of supplying the equivalent of the total normal population of Alcudia.

The delay in the auction may be considered to be just that: a delay. A new government, especially one with stronger environmental principles than the PP, might be expected to move rapidly towards a renewables policy. But would it and how might it be able to if the likes of GOB have their way in insisting on public sector control? The fear in the Balearics is that the projects currently on hold might not be realised at all, thus dashing ambitions (stated ones) of a minimum 20% renewables supply by 2020. And time to meet those ambitions is rapidly running out.

Sun and wind. You wouldn't think it would be proving to be so difficult. But it is. The 2020 20% is a pipe dream.

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