The Barcelona Energy Agency (AEB) is
a public consortium that consists of a number of authorities that are directly
involved in managing energy and the environment: Barcelona City Council,
Barcelona Metropolitan Area, the Catalan Energy Institute, the Autonomous
University of Barcelona and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. AEB aims to boost the city’s reputation
as a benchmark city in terms of promoting energy saving and energy efficiency,
and enhancing knowledge about and the use of renewable energy.
As part of
this, Barcelona City Council created a new municipal retailer in 2018,
Barcelona Energía (BE), to serve
as a key municipal tool contributing to the city’s energy transition. BE
involves citizens in decision-making, and aims to increase energy efficiency,
deliver renewable energy at affordable prices and address energy poverty. The
ultimate goal is to achieve energy sovereignty by installing solar power panels
on the roofs of residential and public buildings across Barcelona.
Barcelona Energy Agency and mPOWER Exchange
The City of Barcelona
takes part in the mutual learning programme mPOWER Exchange.
In October 2019, the City of Frankfurt hosted the first meeting of mPOWER’s
Working Group on Renewable Energy, with representatives from Pamplona, London,
Metz, Vienna and Barcelona. Although the various different cities face
different challenges, the productive and friendly workshop, facilitated by
Platform London, helped us learn from our colleagues’ plans and successes with
respect to driving their local energy transitions.
Metz and Frankfurt shared how they are creating synergies between different
municipal spaces including metropolitan, urban and industrial zones. Vienna
presented innovative ways of implementing District Heating technology, and
Pamplona introduced us to their city’s new democratic political culture. All
these ideas and the learning exchange have been of great use for AEB, enabling
us to implement a decentralised, socially just and renewable energy supply, a
political project that has gained traction since then.
Citizen participation and public accountability in Barcelona Energy
The Right to Energy movement nurtured the emergence of Barcelona en
Comú, a citizens’ alliance that now governs Barcelona City Council. The alliance aims to democratise and decentralise
decision-making in the city and is responsible for the implementation of
several measures to counter energy poverty.
BE was established by
the City Council and the Barcelona Energy Agency as part of this process. The
new municipal retailer purchases energy from producers and distributes it to
the citizens, seeking to break away from being dependent upon the
profit-oriented oligopolistic model that dominates the Spanish energy market.
It advocates for universal access to clean and renewable energy and the
equitable distribution of energy as a basic right.
The Council of Users of Barcelona Energía (Consejo de Usuarios), which is at the heart of the organisation, consists of consumers with voting rights and neighbourhood associations, who do not vote but can voice their opinions. It now consists of 85 participants who have collectively developed several proposals already. Collaborative decision-making is employed in workshops and meetings, and through the virtual participative platform DECIDIM. It puts strategic proposals to the municipal company and participates in decision-making, including decisions on investments and tariff regulations. It also monitors and evaluates the energy-related measures taken by the municipality.
Comprehensive planning for an energy transition
Barcelona is part of
the Energy Cities Network, which supports cities to develop and implement
ambitious plans for municipal energy transition. Barcelona’s initial reference
plan was its Climate Plan, which relates to the value of and need for the
energy transition in order to protect the climate,
and contains short-term actions clustered under four long-term objectives (to
be met by 2030):
Mitigation: reducing greenhouse gases by 45%
compared to 2005
the total amount of green space by 1.6km2 and reducing demand for
water to just 100 litres of water per resident per day
justice: ensuring nobody suffers from energy poverty
citizen action: allocating 12 million euros to citizens’ projects
164 pages contain many commitments that will add up to a clean and citizen-led
energy transition. For instance, the city aims to multiply solar power
generation by five and reduce energy consumption by about 10% compared to 2008.
objectives and actions were extended by the Barcelona-based Climate Emergency
Committee and a Sustainable Council working group consisting of a variety of
national and municipal actors. As a result of its involvement in this
collective work, Barcelona produced a Climate Emergency Declaration, which came
into force in January 2020. Citizens and social and productive sector
representatives were invited to participate in four workshop sessions and via
the virtual platform DECIDIM.
The Climate Emergency Declaration includes an updated 2020-2025 Climate Action Plan to be implemented by the City Council and monitored and evaluated by the Committee.
Fighting energy poverty
2015, a law was passed preventing people living in precarious situations from
being cut off from the electricity supply if they defaulted on their energy
bills (which happened frequently following the 2008 financial crisis). This
success was largely the result of public protest organised by groups such as
the Alliance against Energy Poverty (Alianza contra la Pobreza Energética
and led to the emergence of Barcelona en Comú and its control of the City
Council, as described above. These developments heralded the
subsequent implementation of other measures to counter energy poverty as well,
discount (Bono Social). This is a government-run programme which reduces energy
bills by 25% or 40%, depending on an applicant’s economic situation. BE provides information and support during
the application process.
consultation spaces across the city, which are run by Barcelona City Council in
order to inform citizens about their right to energy, offering them help with
paying bills and dealing with distributors, reconnecting households that have
been cut off, and providing information about installing solar power panels on
Building energy sovereignty with solar power
Only 1% of the city’s
energy is produced locally, meaning that the city is responsible for high greenhouse
gas emissions in other places. Additionally, many buildings are energy
inefficient. For these reasons, the municipality offers public grants and
subsidies for energy-related renovations. It has also developed a scheme to
transform terraces and roof spaces into decentralised photovoltaic power plants
AEB has complemented
this by developing a comprehensive and publicly accessible map that
demonstrates the potential for solar energy generation in the different parts
of the city, identifying specific buildings and the size and exact position of
rooftops. New photovoltaic installations are supported by BE, which covers up
to 50% of the initial costs of energy rehabilitation.
In 2018, Barcelona
City Council also introduced a programme to promote and increase renewable and
local energy generation across the city. The programme aims to increase energy
generated from solar power by 20%.
It identifies four different sets of measures which are differentiated
according to whether the ownership of the building and the origin of the
investment needed are public or private or a combination of both.
To sum up, Barcelona City Council has successfully developed comprehensive plans for a democratic energy transition rooted in popular participation and public accountability, and the public electricity company, Barcelona Energía, is committed to contributing to the energy transition and combatting energy poverty. These measures are expected to move Barcelona closer towards energy sovereignty, enabling it to move away from fossil fuels and break free of the oligopolistic energy market.
About the author:
Rafael Moreno from Barcelona: Licensed in Civil Engineering (UPC and UCAM), and in Building Engineering (UPC). Over the course of 18 years he has developed civil works projects including urbanisation, roads, railways, airports and bus stations. Since February 2018, he has been responsible for developing different projects for the Barcelona Energy Agency, especially related to renewable energy generation.
This blog article was co-created by Lukas Toedte and is part of the mPOWER blog series in which cities and towns share how they are building better energy futures.
mPOWER is run by a consortium of Glasgow University (UK), Platform (UK), Energy Cities (EU-wide), IPE (Croatia), Transnational Institute (Netherlands), University of the Basque Country, and Carbon Coop (UK).
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement number 785171. This project follows the EU data protection & security law, which is enforceable since 25 May 2018.