The local energy agency and support for self-consumption drive energy transition in Pamplona

Published On: May 4, 2020Categories: ArticlesTags: ,

By Javier Zardoya Illana, municipality of Pamplona

Pamplona is the capital of the autonomous province of Navarra in northern Spain. With 200,000 inhabitants, it is the biggest city in the region. In recent years, the local government has made considerable efforts to phase out fossil fuels, extend renewable energy generation and increase energy efficiency. In 2019, Pamplona declared a climate emergency.

Navarra already has a good track record, as 70% of the electrical used comes from renewable energy sources.[i] Between 2009 and 2020, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 20% per capita.[ii] Despite this progress, it is difficult to achieve some of the objectives set out in the European 2020 Strategy (specifically the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions), as the region has one of the country’s highest per capita consumption rates.

Next steps in Pamplona

Credit: Municipality of Pamplona

In order to meet climate goals, the connection between citizens and local stakeholders, and between energy and climate policies and instruments, all need to improve. Local authorities are key players in the energy sector as they work closely with citizens, associations, non-profit organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises in the energy sector. Local energy action plans and projects are the key factors in addressing the climate emergency and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Pamplona City Council is in the process of creating a Strategic Urban Plan 2030, guided by debate and public reflection.[iii] From a cross-cutting and multisectoral perspective, a broad range of local players and institutions, as well as individual citizens, are jointly identifying challenges for the future development of the city, defining priorities and drafting action plans. Indicators and follow-up evaluations allow the validation of progress. One of the five thematic areas is ‘Green and Ecological Pamplona committed to the Climate’.[iv]

The project is now in the final phase, when participants are asked to present their project proposals in detail, including the actors, the required budget and the duration of the project.

The local energy agency

The public entity tasked with managing the local energy transition in Pamplona is the municipal energy agency. The agency engages in a wide range of activities to educate and activate citizens and the local social movements, making sure that decisions are not only beneficial to the users but also democratically backed by the residents of the city.[v]

The agency is particularly concerned with the fight against energy poverty. Studies and mapping efforts are under way and the agency is committed to tackling problems that are identified.

Energy Transition and Climate Change Strategy 2030

Pamplona has been working on renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability for many years, and in 2019 the city renewed its commitment to become a modern, carbon-neutral city. The energy agency is developing a new Energy Transition and Climate Change Strategy 2030 ‘Go Green’ to achieve the goals defined in the Strategic Urban Plan. It builds on previous experiences and successes.[vi]

In 2019 the city council declared a Climate Emergency,[vii] approved an institutional declaration in line with Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals,[viii] and launched a sectoral participation tool and observatory lab for citizens to plan and participate in action on the environment and climate change.[ix] Following this, the city assessed the energy model and analysed climate vulnerabilities.[x] The results were used as a starting point for the new transition plan.[xi]

The main pillar of the plan is the involvement of all sectors (city council, citizens, services, industry) in order to showcase how a decarbonised economy can work along with innovative business models, unlocking a sustainable future for the city. Understanding the fight against climate change and for an energy transition as an opportunity to create better and more sustainable lives for all will be the challenge of 2020.

International energy transition networks

Pamplona has been part of networks and alliances that share common goals in their energy policies, including Energy Cities, the alliance of European local authorities in energy transition.[xii] Participation in such networks has helped the city to facilitate a planning process and gain access to funds and projects from the European Union.

The city’s long-standing commitment to sustainable development was renewed when it was invited to be a pioneer city in an earlier EU project called ENGAGE in 2010.[xiii] The activities of the city administration concerning energy today, align with several plans and roadmaps. One of them is the Sustainable Action Plan, which was developed when the city became a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors in 2009, the world’s largest network for local climate and energy actions. It has been ratified in 2020 with new energy and climate objectives.

The city is currently involved in two EU energy projects, STARDUST and POTENT. Pamplona is now working on energy efficiency and energy use reduction projects in old buildings and social housing projects as part of the STARDUST project, funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme. District heating networks will be renovated, heat recovery systems installed, and energy use monitored via digital tools.

These projects, and the creation of micro smart grids on a building scale, using open source software, will help Pamplona take a substantial leap towards being a sustainable energy smart city. STARDUST also supports the city in upgrading public transport infrastructure, which will include e-charging stations for vehicles. These measures are rooted in a commitment to smart business models and innovation, and partnerships focused on engaging and reaching a consensus with citizens.[xiv]

POTEnT (Public Organisation Transform Energy Transition) is a new EU project which innovatively addresses a key challenge for European cities and regions: how to achieve more carbon reduction by harnessing the potential of direct and local action by citizens and communities. Through POTEnT, communities and citizens can develop or improve energy services that are locally owned and provide a positive alternative to market-based energy provision. In this way their transition to a low-carbon economy will be quicker and deeper. The eight partner cities met in Pamplona in 2019, and further activities will be implemented in the next three years.[xv]

Best practice and success stories from Pamplona

One of the most advanced renewable energy generation projects in the city is the installation of photovoltaic modules. In addition to 24 photovoltaic plants that feed electricity into the network, the city enables ‘self-consumption’ – systems where energy is not fed into the grid but used in the home where it is generated – and passive building constructions in both private and municipal dwellings. So far, five self-consumption solar installations have been completed, realising a potential of 85 kilowatts peak. Citizens can track virtually the consumption of three municipal buildings that generate their own solar power.[xvi]

Credit: Municipality of Pamplona

The local energy agency’s website provides detailed information and support for residents who want to generate their own electricity.[xvii] The project runs in cooperation with EnerAgen, an association with 24 public and private members that offers comprehensive support to implement self-generated electricity solutions.[xviii]

Between 2014 and 2018, the province of Navarra rolled out a large-scale renovation programme with finance from the Navarra Government and the European Commission (Mobilising Local Energy Investments – Project Development Assistance), which targeted residential buildings. 600 households in the under-invested Txantrea district, in the north-east of the city, now benefit from these renovations, as residential energy bills have been reduced, on average, by €560 annually.

Thanks to the programme, households’ energy consumption was reduced by 70% compared to 2014 levels. Moreover, the district heating system in the neighbourhood has been modernised and will soon run with locally sourced biomass. Once the project was completed in 2018, NASUVINSA, the regional agency responsible for urban development and social housing, received a loan of €40 million loan from the European Investment Bank to build 500 housing units that use nearly zero energy.[xix]


Building on the experience gained over the last decades from projects regarding sustainable development, climate protection and energy transition, Pamplona now aims to drastically increase renewable energy sources and residential energy generation options within the city. Citizens and residents are being encouraged to participate in these projects for the benefit of all.

About the author:

Javier Zardoya Illana is the head of the Municipal Energy Agency of Pamplona. He has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the Public University of Navarre, and has been a promoter and coordinator of Kisar Energía e Innovación Social and technical manager of energy services in the consultancy firm 3Seficiency.

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.