Demonstration Against Austerity Measures In Madrid, Spain

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

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On the eve of September 26, 2012, around 7:30 P.M., I arrived in the center of Madrid, Spain (for coverage of Solar Decathlon Europe 2012), in  midst of an excited crowd, full of tense emotions and discontentment.  My tired body trudged through what seemed like sea of humanity, dragging my luggage,  after the taxi cab driver refused to continue on due to demonstrators gathered to protest against  Spanish government’s announcement of Austerity measures (confirmed by several other travelers from Sweden) just announced on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.  I immediately became more alert, noting good segment of the crowd with worried look on their faces, mostly in their 20’s-30’s and occasional above 40’s, some smoking cigarettes while  looking down on the ground, some conversing in high pitched intensity level, periodic chanting and singing came in waves, scent of beer here and there…I did not detect any sense of danger or violence, just apprehension and the oppressive melancholy. I suspect these demonstrators had not carried any malice;they were simply frustrated and tired,  and out of the sense of desperation and lack of hope, they were letting out their steam/scream the only way they knew how….later I’ve discovered that some other Youtube clips only showed the worst segment of the demonstration.  During the fours hours that I’ve observed the demonstration, both the demonstrators and the police of Madrid were not particularly violent. I observed some police cars actually going out of their way to avoid hurting demonstrators.  I believe the worst clips seen on Youtube probably occurred during the last half hour between 11:30 P.M.-midnight, when the police cars were trying to clear the street of demonstrators.  Below, demonstrators were seen in Plaza De Las Cortes, Madrid, Spain, on the eve of September 26, 2012:


Even though my intended coverage for this trip to Spain was only for Solar Decathlon Europe 2012, I felt an obligation to record this moment in history…et voila…my friends…after all, Austerity measures will also impact the renewable energy.  The desperate determination of the Spanish people fighting against the consequences of the economic crisis and tight austerity measures also had presented itself in another form.  Apparently one mayor, Angel Vadillo, of a small Spanish community (Albuquerque, a municipality with a population 5,500 in Extremadura in the west of Spain), has been on a hunger strike for two months in front of the Ministry of Industry in Madrid.  As it turned out, it was solar power that kicked off Vadillo’s unusual protest in the first place: in January, Spanish Industry Minister Jose Mauel Soria cut all subsidies for new projects relating to renewable energies.  Albuquerque had staked its future in solar energy for the past two decades;five new facilities with a capacity of 250 megawatts had been planned prior to the subsidy cuts. With these plans being shelved, “That means that we will lose some 850 jobs,” said Vadillo.  It was estimated that the measure will cost approximately 10,000 jobs across the country.  Vadillo hoped to force the minister to at least take a seat at the negotiating table.  He began his mission by walking the 600 kilometers (311 miles) from his constituency to Madrid.  After the Minister of Industry refused to receive him, he decided to camp outside the building.  When that too failed to get him any result, he stopped eating on June 11 , 2012.  But now, Mayor Vadillo has become visibly emaciated, though his resolve still intact.  “I drink eight liters of honey water every day…that keeps me sharp,” he said.  An ambulance stops by to check on his health daily.  Even though one of the medical personnel commented that it’s become critical, but Vadillo intends to keep going.  Mayor Vadillo had long become a symbol for Spanish people’s struggle against the consequences of the economic crisis and tight austerity measures.  Once he had made his hunger strike public, Minister of Industry Soria did consent to a single meeting with Mayor Vadillo.  “Our talk was more of a monologue. I explained my position and the minister didn’t say a word except that I should reconsider my position.” Vadillo said.  Mayor Vadillo admits that solar subsidies in Spain had long been on the generous side and he wants to be able to negotiate a feasible solution through discussion with Minister Soria.

What I believe as the valuable take-away lessons for solar/renewable energy from our September 26, 2012, post of the Scottish (UK) experience and the recent Spanish experience are:

  1. The cost of Solar Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program would be best not coming from the government subsidies but  from the rate payers (consumers) in a tiered fashion, such that those of lowest tier (lowest power consumption and/or income) would not need to pay for the added cost due to solar FIT.   Rest of the electricity consumers would bear a slight increase in their annual bills proportionally thus allowing electricity utilities to buy renewable energy generated from green sources at above-market rates set by the government.
  2. It would be advisable to start the Solar FIT low, close to the avoided cost level, so to be able to approach the situation carefully and cautiously, and  reassess the situation (optimal Feed-In rate) at specific intervals  to avoid budget/financial difficulties.
  3. It is important not only having the representative(s) from the consumers/people, from the government, but also from the power/utility companies present at the negotiation table for any discussion involving electricity/power use.  It is of benefit to all (people, government, and utility companies) that the optimal method and rate would be implemented because it will be beneficial for the utility companies to continue having consumers/people connected to the grid.  It is certainly true that the government is at its best when  its people are able to live with hope and harmony.  Willingness to listen on the side of the government would be instrumental in arriving at this goal.
  4. It seems feasible/optimal to introduce regulation to require solar thermal (solar hot water heating systems) when/where it is already a foregone conclusion that this would be an economically feasible approach in building design.  Perhaps it is time to start the discussion in considering implementing this as part of the building code.  DO NOT FORGET SOLAR THERMAL !!!  IT IS VERY FEASIBLE TO INSTALL SOLAR HOT WATER HEATING SYSTEMS EVEN BEFORE INSTALLING SOLAR PV !!!

~may we all be able to have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com

Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net

Related Articles, below:

  1. ctpost.com: Spain, Greece launch austerity plans to secure aid
  2. garrigues: current situation and possible regulatory austerity measures in the Spanish renewable energy industry
  3. feed-in-tariffs in the United Kingdom

Homepage:  http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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