energy

North African gas to reach Central Europe through Catalonia by 2020 to reduce 40% Russian dependency

March 5, 2015 09:40 PM | ACN

A strategic gas pipeline is to be built through the Catalan Pyrenees, linking the Iberian Peninsula with France and Central Europe. The Midcat project aims to reduce Europe's dependency on Russian gas by 40%, diversifying the sources of supply. The pipeline should be operational by 2020, announced on Thursday the Spanish Minister for Industry, José Manuel Soria. The day before, French President, François Hollande, Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, Portuguese PM, Pedro Passos Coelho, and European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, re-launched the project's construction. Midcat started to be planned in 2007 but it was halted for several years, mainly due to a lack of interest from French companies and institutions, which were not guaranteeing to build their part. Now, the crisis with Russia has reignited the urge to find alternative gas suppliers for Central Europe.

People’s Party delays approval of Catalan Government’s 2015 budget “to stop independence”

February 3, 2015 09:08 PM | ACN

The conservative Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, has appealed against the Catalan Executive’s 2015 budget bill, which will delay its definitive approval and implementation by up to one month. The new budget was supposed to be approved this week by the Catalan Parliament, after months of negotiations between the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC. The new bill will increase social spending and also increase funds for Catalonia’s own tax administration and for the launch of a Catalan Social Security agency. The Catalan Government accused the PP of “parliamentary filibusterism” and warned them that the appeal “will not stop the [self-determination] process” nor the creation of “state structures”. However, it will damage families in need, as it will delay the implementation of new social programmes.

Agreement on Catalan Government’s 2015 budget after increasing social spending by €100 million

January 26, 2015 10:21 PM | ACN

The governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC have reached an agreement to approve the Catalan Government’s budget for the current year. After the President of the Catalan Government and CiU leader, Artur Mas, and the ERC’s President, Oriol Junqueras, reached an agreement on holding early elections on 27 September as a plebiscite on Catalonia’s independence, both parties reopened the budget talks. After 10 days of negotiations, they have reached a definitive agreement, which includes a €100 million fund that will bring more resources for social programmes. They have also agreed to stop paying some allowances to senior officials. Furthermore, they will add €10 million to the development of Catalonia’s own tax administration and they will also create the Agency of Social Protection, which is to manage Catalonia’s Social Security system.

Catalan President: the self-determination process has “to continue and end well”

January 13, 2015 05:46 PM | ACN

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, assessed on Tuesday the Executive’s work during 2014, which he found to be “positive” overall, although he admitted there are still many people in great need and many social and economic challenges ahead. Referring to the current debate on whether to call early elections transformed into a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence from Spain, Mas promised immediate decisions to be announced on Thursday. Before taking the definitive decision and after weeks of admitted “confusion”, the Catalan President wants to hold a last round of talks with the main civil society organisations supporting independence and the left-wing pro-independence party ERC – with whom the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU has shared a parliamentary stability agreement for the last 2 years. “I will not slack” in the self-determination process, Mas stated.

Green Socialist leader highlights the need to vote on social issues and budget cuts besides independence

December 15, 2014 09:53 PM | ACN

Joan Herrera, the leader of the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA, also held his own conference on Catalonia's political future and self-determination road map, after those of the Catalan President, the Spanish Prime Minister and three other political leaders. Despite supporting Catalans' right to vote on independence, Herrera rejected exclusively voting on independence, since after years of budget cuts and corruption scandals, citizens also have to vote on social issues and measures to clean up the democratic system. Herrera strongly criticised the austerity measures approved by the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the People's Party (PP). The ICV-EUiA does not have an official position regarding independence and about half of its leadership and voters would support it, while the other half supports greater powers for the Catalan Government within a federal Spain.

Catalan Government takes Spain’s €1.35 billion bailout of the failed Castor Project to the Constitutional Court

November 14, 2014 08:29 PM | ACN / Nell English

On Friday, the Spanish Government approved the €1,350 million compensation to Escal UGS, the company behind the controversial Castor Project, a submarine facility built to store 1.3 billion tonnes worth of gas reserves off the Ebro Delta coast. This project failed after it was found to have caused almost 1,000 small earthquakes. This amount will be financed through increased tariffs to gas consumers over the next 30 years, resulting in public compensation for a private investment. The Spanish Government is obliged to pay the developer Escal UGS, because of a clause in the 2008 Royal Decree whereby the State would agree to compensate the company should the project be unable to be completed. An appeal of this law was rejected by the Spanish Supreme Court last October. The Spanish Government has argued that this solution is cheaper than operating the project. The Catalan Government however, which had opposed the project from the start, has appealed this decision to the Constitutional Court.

Catalan President gives Rajoy a last chance for negotiating an independence referendum

November 11, 2014 08:32 PM | ACN

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, assessed November 9's participatory process, when 81% of the 2.3 million participants voted for independence, despite the Spanish Government's obstacles and threats. On Tuesday, Mas asked the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to stop ignoring reality and start negotiating a mutually-agreed referendum on independence, like that in Scotland and Quebec. Taking into account Rajoy's attitude for the last 2 years, Mas was said to be "quite sceptical" but highlighted that Catalan representatives have always wanted a mutually-agreed vote, which is "the best" option. Mas also announced he was starting a round of talks with pro-self-determination parties – including the Socialists (PSC) – "to listen to everybody" about organising plebiscitary elections. In fact, he warned Rajoy that plebiscitary elections on independence can be called if he continues to refuse to negotiate. Besides, Mas confirmed that on Saturday that the Catalan Government's website had suffered a cyber-attack on a gigantic-scale, which was "organised by professionals".

Spanish Government bans Catalan decree that was to help families in need keep energy supply in winter

October 23, 2014 09:41 PM | ACN

The Constitutional Court has accepted the Spanish Government's appeal against the Catalan Executive' decree from December 2013 with which families in need are protected from their household electricity and gas being cut off by energy supply companies during winter months. The Catalan Government's measure aimed to fight the so-called 'energy poverty': people who cannot afford to pay for their energy bills because they do not get minimum income. The decree was not a cancellation of the bills but to allow those families to postpone the payment during the winter months. However, the Spanish Executive considered that the Catalan measure represented a "discrimination" against the citizens from other Autonomous Communities, who have to pay their energy bills on time. The appeal goes against Catalonia's political autonomy and is arbitrary. The Catalan Government stated it was "upset" by the ban and added that it will find an alternative way to help those families.

Barcelona-based Gas Natural Fenosa to make take-over of biggest energy distributor in Chile for €2.6 billion

October 13, 2014 08:32 PM | ACN

The energy company Gas Natural Fenosa announced they have launched a tender offer for 100% of the share capital of the Chilean Compañía General de Electricidad (CGE), which represents a €2.6 billion purchase. The transaction is to be the biggest international  acquisition by the Barcelona-based company. The total size of the operation, including the consolidated debt of CGE and its subsidiaries, is approximately €6 billion. It expected to generate over €600 million gross profit next year. Purchase of CGE, which distributes electricity to 43% of the Chilean market, and has 2.5 million customers, will increase the Catalan company's presence in Latin America. Furthermore, this deal will allow Gas Natural Fenosa to meet its 2015 growth targets and strengthen its presence in Latin America.

Taxpayers foot the bill for Madrid and EU’s mistakes, paying €1.3billion to bail out failed Castor Project off Ebro Delta coast

October 3, 2014 09:25 PM | ACN / Nell English

The Spanish Government plans to compensate €1.35 billion to the companies behind the failed Castor project, the off-shore gas storage facility built off the coast of Vinaròs, a Valencian town near the Catalan border. The company Escal UGS, controlled with a 66.7% stake by ACS, filed a claim in July last year for the €1.6 billion cost. The project which funded with €1.4 billion worth of bonds issued by the European Investment Bank in a controversial new funding scheme, was forced to temporarily stop a few weeks after it began in September last year, after it was found to be responsible for almost 1,000 earthquakes in Catalonia's Ebro Delta.  However, due to a clause from 2008 in the agreement, Escal was legally entitled to compensation. The Spanish Government tried to free itself of this obligation, but last October the Supreme Court allowed it. This decision has been highly controversial and will cause further political, financial and ecological earthquakes.

Opposition parties ask the Catalan Government for further efforts to fight poverty

March 12, 2014 08:20 PM | ACN

The Catalan Parliament held on Wednesday a monographic session on poverty, which has increased over the past few years, spurred by the financial crisis. According to a report published by the Red Cross this week, there are 200,000 families in Catalonia which live below the poverty line and since the crisis started, 88 Catalans a day have crossed such a line. With a population of some 7.5 million and a GDP per capita of around €28,000 (similar to the UK's) Catalonia posts a 22.3% unemployment rate and a 26.4% child poverty rate. Opposition parties asked for greater efforts and further measures to fight the poverty increase. The Catalan Government emphasised budget figures and detailed several actions in different areas to show they are tackling the issue. In this vein, the Executive criticised that child poverty stood at 22% in 2006, in prosperity years. Furthermore, they complained about the limited fiscal powers on taxation and public deficit, which seriously reduce spending possibilities.

Gas Natural Fenosa earns €1.45 billion in 2013, a 0.3% increase

February 18, 2014 08:23 PM | ACN

Barcelona-based Gas Natural Fenosa earned €1.445 billion in 2013, 0.3% more than in 2012. The strong international customer base of the energy company has neutralized the “decline in business” in Spain. This fall at Spanish level was due to the fiscal pressure increase and to the impact of the latest Spanish Government’s reform of the electricity market, which led to a shortfall of €455 million in 2013 for the Catalan multinational. The aggregate EBITDA (Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) stood at €5.085 billion, 0.1% more than in 2012. International business accounted for 44.1% of the EBITDA, while it had represented 43.2% in 2012. In addition, the Spanish market contributed to 55.9% of Gas Natural Fenosa’s EBITDA, a 1.6% drop on last year figures.

Catalan Government stops cutting off energy supplies to families in need

December 23, 2013 08:16 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government has finally approved a decree protecting families in need from having their household electricity and gas cut off by energy supply companies during the winter months. The measure aims to fight the so-called ‘energy povert’: people who cannot afford to pay for their energy bills because they do not get minimum income. This way, the Catalan Government ensures they can continue having heating and using their cooking devices during the coldest period of the year. Energy companies will not be able to cut off supplies to these families between November and March. Besides, the Catalan Government has also approved a temporary budget extension for the coming weeks, since the People’s  Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Executive – has blocked the approval of the 2014 budget.

Electricity companies not to cut off supply to people in need

December 5, 2013 04:08 PM | ACN

The Catalan Government wants energy companies not to cut off the domestic power supply to people in financial difficulties who are temporarily unable to pay their bills. The Catalan Ministry of Business and Employment aims to fight so-called ‘energy poverty’: people who are obliged to do without electricity or gas because they simply cannot afford the bills. In the current economic crisis, thousands of Catalan households (around 20%) are facing this problem, which means they cannot use the heating during winter or they have problems cooking meals. In order to achieve this objective, the Catalan Executive is looking at modifying Catalonia’s Consumption Code to include this initiative fighting ‘energy poverty’.

SEAT builds the world’s largest solar plant on a car factory

November 12, 2013 07:00 PM | ACN / Maria Belmez / Esther Romagosa

Car manufacturer SEAT, based in Martorell (Greater Barcelona), has set up 53,000 solar panels on the roof of its main factory and on top of parking spaces. The company has just completed the third stage of a €35 million project, which started in 2010, and occupies 10% of the 3 million square metres of its Martorell facilities. The solar panels occupy an extension equivalent to 40 soccer fields and can generate 15 million kWh of clean energy per year. This is equivalent to 25% of the energy needed to produce the Seat Leon or to the “annual consumption of 3,500 households”, said President Jürgen Stackmann. With this eco-friendly project Martorell is now the automation factory with the largest solar plant in the world. Furthermore, the panels were installed over existing facilities and do not occupy additional space.