Tapia: Energy, less noise and more stringency
Soaring temperatures across the State have led to increased energy consumption, generating a political clash about energy costs. The noise generated by this summer squabble has been overlapped by the interesting and much-needed analysis that was published several days ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Two high-voltage aspects of a global nature and that exist alongside the local and even the domestic environment are energy --its generation, consumption and cost--and its inextricable link to well-being and industrial development, as well as to the enormous challenge we are facing with climate change. And fuelling this public noise is the finger pointing, without the opportunity to have stringent contrast or calm conversation, exactly what is required for a far-reaching issue like this.
We are facing a global issue that is affecting the entire planet. There is a great deal at stake, and the energy reality has given rise to certain inconsistencies that we in the Basque Country must also fight against.
The energy cost formula is not a straightforward issue, and this very complexity is where the political demagoguery has struck gold. Within the scope of this muddy mêlée, I would like to provide a constructive vision by focusing on certain important aspects that could be improved.
A situation has arisen over the last few weeks where the convergence of different circumstances has created a perfect storm, involving high electrical demand for air conditioning due to soaring temperatures; a fall in wind production; high natural gas prices; and an upward CO2 price trend.
The first two of these are driving the need to incorporate energy from combined cycles (backup energy for intermittent renewable energy) beyond normal levels. This type of generation is highly dependent on the prices of both its raw material, such as natural gas, and the price of the CO2 tonne emitted. Their high price has meant that the costs of generating megawatt-hour (MWh) at these plants is currently high. As these plants are necessary to meet the demand for electric power, they set the reference price of the daily market.
With the exception of certain one-off instances in Araba, we cannot attribute excessive blame to the heatwave in the case of the Basque Country. However, all the aspects already mentioned also affect the price of our electricity. This leaves us with some unclear reflections and conclusions due to the scant wind energy generated in the Basque Country (prevented by a supposed social response). We have turned our back on the natural gas available in our subsoil, while the cost of CO2 is naturally increasing, with the price we have to pay for an energy transition aligned with the fight against the threats of climate change.
Energy and climate transitions are approaching. Either we take action, or this is coming our way anyway. The debate must be focused due to the Basque Country’s scant production and high consumption of energy, where we pay the difference at the price set for us. This affects electricity bills for private homes, particularly for the most vulnerable in society, and for our businesses and their competitiveness.
We are an industrial country. Our companies need access to the electricity market under competitive conditions because a good part of our economy and many quality jobs depend on it.
Initial reflection. We need to intensify all types of renewable energies (and storage solutions), including wind energy and photovoltaic farms. The Basque Country has a very low renewable energy production rate, which makes no sense in a country that has been able to generate a world-leading and competitive industrial energy sector. The Basque wind generation technological-industrial ecosystem uses leading technology and offers environmentally innovative solutions that we export internationally, but that the Basque Country is unable to install for socio-political reasons.
Second reflection. It is up to us to be consistent with the decision made in relation to gas, the very accessory complement required by renewable energy until the time more sustainable energy storage solutions are available. The Basque Country has ruled out resorting to managing its own gas, although we remain comfortable in the convenience of natural gas while being aware of the higher economic and environmental cost of imported gas prices.
Third reflection. Sharing the “polluter pays” principle and seeing the cost of the CO2 emission, it has to be asked why we do not concentrate more efforts on the “energy saving” principle. No one has incorporated this approach during the many torrid days of debate taking place right now and someone should take on this challenge and consider a reduction in energy consumption. The best energy is the type that is not consumed. Energy efficiency has been and will continue to be one of the essential elements in meeting the challenge of climate neutrality and decarbonisation. This is one of the founding purposes of Ente Vasco de la Energía-EVE, which the Basque Country and the Basque industry are benchmarks for.
The Basque Country has had the capacity to use EVE for the last 40 years. While this organisation has not had the ability to intervene in the regulation of the cost of energy, it has been able to help the Basque system reduce its dependence on oil and coal derivatives. The introduction of a system for the transport and distribution of natural gas, as well as the promotion of various small and large-scale renewable technologies throughout the Basque terrain and, above all, the commitment to energy efficiency has helped to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, and consequently energy costs by 27%. This has been possible thanks to large-scale actions and programmes aimed at industry, in public-private collaboration with the local government, and penetrating all homes, with the aid of upgrades for boilers, windows, appliances and vehicles.
In short, a structural contribution that has impacted on the quality of life of the public, thanks to also providing a benefit to the public coffers and improving the quality of the environment. This public organisation that serves the public has been able to collaborate with the industrial structure and could be considered a model worth following among the dearth of ideas presented to us.
There is clearly a need for a thorough and frank debate on the electricity tariff and the functioning of the energy market, but it does not seem that the patches or the night-time savings are providing a structural solution.
If only to stop heating up the environment even more, perhaps it would not be a bad idea to tread with caution and assume political responsibility so as not to get caught up in something that goes beyond our responsibility. The public will be grateful if we make an effort to responsibly tell them what is going on and, above all, take a solidary stance with the sectors and with the most vulnerable in society of this complexity that we refer to as energy.