Som Energia: green Energy Cooperative
- Som Energia is a green energy cooperative. As a cooperative, the associates are members of the company and the assembly makes the decisions. It is a green energy company as it produces and markets energy produced by renewable energy sources. It all started at the University of Girona, where a professor wanted to be able to access this type of energy in a similar way to in his home country. Along with a group of students, he started what is now Som Energia, a company that aims to create a sustainable and democratic energy system.A green energy cooperativeThe importance of renewable energy and its democratic controlKey ideas: energy crisis | renewable energy | energy reform | cooperationAs reiterated on numerous occasions, the current energy model is largely based on burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas), which are classed as non-renewable energy sources seeing as we use them in less time than it takes for them to form. Uncontrolled growth and excessive consumption over the last few decades have eaten into a large part of available fossil fuels and for a number of years now, experts have been pointing out that these energy sources are running out. Even so, new “deposits” have been discovered recently but extraction is more expensive, seeing as they are not easily accessible. If we bear in mind that conventional energy resources are scarce, that the cost of extraction will continue to increase, and that energy demand is on the rise, we can only come to one conclusion: in the future we are going to pay more for each unit of energy consumed than we pay now. Yet, when we put the economic cost to one side, we should also ask ourselves about the environmental cost of extraction. Is this increasing too? It possibly is, since methods for extraction are becoming more and more aggressive due to difficulties in obtaining fuel (refer to the link in Spanish on obtaining shale gas through “fracking”).
In addition to all this, we have the toxic emissions and CO2 released whilst burning fossil fuels. These emissions have serious consequences for people’s health and are responsible for one of the biggest risks the planet is facing, climate change.
On the other hand, most of the energy consumed in Spain comes from abroad. According to figures from the European Union, the Spanish rate of energy dependence is 76.7%. In effect, more than two thirds of Spain’s gross internal energy consumption in 2010 was imported from other countries. To give us an idea, the European rate for the same index in 2010 is 52.7%. Data from the World Bank for the same year tells us that 76% of energy consumed by the Spanish state came from fossil fuels. The biggest fuel imported by Spain is oil, followed by natural gas. The main countries that export oil include Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Russia, Libya and Mexico. For gas, the main export countries are Algeria, Qatar, Norway, Nigeria and Egypt (page 61 of the Bank of Spain’s economic bulletin.)
As previously stated, reserves are growing sparse and depending on other countries isn’t a very good strategy. Furthermore, many consumers disapprove of the policies used and complain about the social consequences entailed by the exploitation of fossil fuels in some of the countries which fill up the tanks in our cars, fuel our gas cookers and heat our homes in winter. We could be less dependent if we produced a larger percentage of the energy we consume and if we were more efficient in terms of energy.
There are studies which show that Spain can undoubtedly produce more energy and stop depending on other countries. Greenpeace has published a series of studies (Renewables 2050, Renewables 100% and Energy 3.0) based on the development and capacity of renewable energies in the Spanish peninsular. These studies conclude that an electric system based exclusively on renewable energy sources could satisfy the demand for energy in all sectors (transport, construction, industry, etc.), and the report Renewables 2050 ends by estimating that renewable energies have the potential to produce more than 56 times the demand for electricity by 2050. It’s obvious that a change to our energy model is both necessary and urgent, and without a doubt this must be made by committing to renewable energies.
Yet instead of following this path, the latest energy reform shows that our politicians have devoted themselves to penalising renewable energies by making them more expensive and reducing competition in the energy market among manufacturing and marketing firms, such as green energy cooperatives like Som Energia. Clearly, politicians have little interest in self-supply, energy efficiency and the development of renewable energies; and they are even less interested in whether firms producing and marketing green energy are part of the social economy.
The big companies that form the Spanish energy oligopoly – Endesa, Gas Natural, Iberdrola, Hidrocantábrico and E.On – and the dominant political parties believe in an energy model that maintains the capital flow created through trade with exporting countries. Furthermore, it is a “coincidence” that these firms are a refuge for ex politicians of the main political parties.
Where energy is concerned, alternatives on a Spanish level already exist and they allow us to make progress towards a change in the energy, democratic and sustainable model that empowers society. If one thing has come out of this Spanish and worldwide crisis, it is the need for the social class to dominate the political class and the big oligopolies. Information means freedom because once you find out about alternatives to those available, you are able to choose whatever best suits your beliefs. What world do you want to live in? Are there solutions? What can you do about it? Here’s one solution from the energy sector: Som Energia.
Articles of interest (the links below are in Spanish only)
- The golden retirement of politicians: The difficulty of applying fully independent legislation over the electricity companies.
- Alternatives to the electric oligopoly.
- Energy Reform
- EU notes with concern the new Spanish energy reform
- Article by Jordi Ortiz: “We’re heading straight for disaster, but – bloody hell – how are we getting there!”
- Becoming familiar with the peak of oil
Translated by Elaine Jordan and Alice Vernon-Clarcke
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