Decree 'eliminates obstacles' to fostering renewable energy

Government introduces new rules to "simplify and speed up" Catalonia's transition to alternative energy sources

Image of the climate action protest in Barcelona in the evening of September 27, 2019 (by Laura Fíguls)
Image of the climate action protest in Barcelona in the evening of September 27, 2019 (by Laura Fíguls) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 26, 2019 07:22 PM

A new decree to tackle the climate emergency and boost alternative energy sources was passed by the government on Tuesday, which claims it "eliminates the obstacles that impeded or limited the fostering of renewable energy in Catalonia."

Replacing one from 2009, the decree must pass parliament within 30 days, but could come into effect by the end of the year, said business minister, Àngels Chacón, who said the new rules "simplify and speed up" procedures for implementing renewable energy.

Thus the period for processing applications to build wind and solar plants will be limited to a maximum of 13 months, and the decree foresees a "renewable energy panel" to assess beforehand whether the plans for new projects are viable.

The new regulations also expand the sites where wind farms and solar power plants can be built, rather than limiting them to "a few specific areas," although the minister said such projects would have to "respect" environmental and urbanistic limits.

Fully renewable by 2050

With renewable energy making up only 8.5% of all power consumption in Catalonia in 2017, the decree is part of the government's aim to introduce energy transition legislation to provide the country with a renewable energy based system by 2050. 

Renewable energy facilities now produce just over 1,200 MW of wind energy and almost 300 MW of solar energy. Yet, the Catalan Energy Institute (ICAEN) estimates that Catalonia will need 4,000 MW of wind power and 6,000 MW of solar power by 2030.

In the long run, renewable energy will also have to replace nuclear power, which currently supplies 24% of all the energy consumed in Catalonia, with the Spanish government aiming to close down the nuclear power stations by 2035.

The government is also preparing a Catalan climate summit for January 17, with representatives from the country's main financial, social, political and academic organisations, to debate how to tackle the climate crisis in the short and long term.

UN calls for effort to cut emissions

The government's new decree comes on the same day that a UN report warned that countries must make special efforts to cut their greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade if a climate catastrophe is to be avoided.

The annual report by the UN Environment Programme said greenhouse gas emissions hit a new high in 2018, and warned that global emissions must fall by 7.6% a year until 2030 to stay within the temperature range to avoid climate disaster.

The report also pointed to the implementation of new technology, such as renewable energy and electric vehicles, as increasingly affordable ways that countries can significantly reduce their carbon emissions without damaging economic growth.

Climate change on a local level

While the repercussions of climate change on a global scale can be seen in increasing deforestation and rising sea levels, the effects are also being noted on a much more local level, hitting certain traditional activities in Catalonia hard.

An example is this year's wild mushroom picking season, which forestry experts say has been cut short due to the lack of rainfall and high temperatures during the summer. Average production this year was 20kg per hectare, half of what is considered normal.

Christmas tree production is also being affected, as producers in Les Guilleries mountains have had to water their trees this year due to the dry summer, causing concern in the town of Espinelves, which is due to begin its popular Christmas tree fair on November 30.