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Basque Energy Agency: 35 years working for energy improvement in the Basque Country

EVE's energy projects over the period are estimated to have generated 142 million euro for the Basque economy
  • In the last three decades, over €30 million has been allocated to aid for renewable energy.
  • A commitment to natural gas has sped up investment and gasification of the region, providing industry with competitive energy prices and high-efficiency industrial technologies. This has been of key importance for competitiveness on global markets, and has helped maintain employment and industrial GDP.
  • Thanks to the introduction of natural gas, oil use has dropped from 62% to 43% of consumption in the period, while the use of coal -the energy source with the highest emission rates- he been completely eliminated. Natural gas has also brought universal access to home comfort.
  • Renewable energy now meets 7% of Basque energy demand and accounts for the entirety of the region's self-sufficiency. The Basque government is committed to research in this area, with test centres such as BIMEP and CIC Energigune, generating new industrial opportunities in the energy industry.
  • The Basque Government's energy agency, Ente Vasco de la Energía (EVE), is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Throughout its history, it has contributed to the development of a planned and sustained energy policy for the Basque Country. From the industrial and energy restructuring of the 1980s to the current transition towards renewables, energy policy has formed a very significant part of Basque industrial policy, both as an indispensable element for the operation of the industrial and business fabric, and for its capacity to attract new production technologies and industries, contributing new wealth and jobs. Energy policies have also generated an unprecedented level of wellbeing for all citizens.

    Created in 1982 by the Basque Parliament, Ente Vasco de la Energía has worked for energy improvement of the Basque Country in five major areas: energy efficiency; diversification in type of sources used; harnessing of available local resources; development of natural gas and promotion of renewable energy.

    The agency's principal drive is to ensure the supply security and energy development of the Basque Country. Its most important contribution has been to speed up the implementation of new scenarios and broaden the energy development of the Basque Country. Basque industry, in particular, has seen major developments, attaining high levels of efficiency and competitiveness. EVE has also played a decisive role in making natural gas practically universal throughout the Basque Country, in substitution of petroleum products and coal.

    The agency was launched in the 1980s, at a time of economic and energy crisis of 1980s, when an obsolete industrial sector which maintained thousands of households was proving incapable of facing down external competition. It depended entirely on oil, it lacked investment and it was highly inefficient. The necessary process of industrial restructuring also entailed a restructuring of energy. The introduction of natural gas led to competitive prices and even more importantly, high-efficiency industrial technologies that would have been unthinkable with oil or coal.

    At different stages, different activities have been prioritised:
    • 1984-1990: oriented towards improving energy efficiency in the industrial sector and to a lesser extent, in the tertiary sector. New energy infrastructures such as the basic gas transport network and industrial network.
    • 1990-2005: oriented towards investment by the tertiary sector (services, commerce, etc.) in renewable energy. Enlargement of the residential/commercial gas network.
    • 2006-2017: oriented towards improved energy efficiency in the industrial and tertiary sectors, with greater stress on transport than in previous stages. Commitment to research into new renewables (marine energy).

    This gradual evolution has proved highly beneficial for Basque society:
    • There has been a major impact on energy saving, equivalent to 42% of present consumption.
    • The type and source of the energy consumed has been diversified, reducing exclusive dependency on oil (down from 86% of total consumption in 1982 to 42% at present –including transport) and substituting it with natural gas (a more efficient energy with lower emissions).
    • The use of coal has been entirely eliminated.
    • Renewable energy sources have gone from representing 2% to 7% of total energy demand.

    Image. Basque energy mix
    Evolución del mix energético vasco 1982-2015

    Basque Energy Strategy 2030 sets out the objectives and challenges for the future of Basque energy policy. It seeks to extend the transition towards a more sustainable, competitive, and low-carbon energy model. Renewable energy will play a central role in meeting these goals, with natural gas operating as an energy vector, meeting energy needs with lower emissions than petroleum products.

    Image. EVE's activities in the different periods

    Efficiency and reduction in consumption
    Historically, much of the agency's work to introduce measures for greater efficiency and to rein in energy consumption has centred on industry. Nonetheless, all sectors have benefitted to some extent from the measures. Indeed, one of EVE's main tasks as an energy agency has been to spread a culture of energy saving. This area, which was practically unheard of in the 1980s, is now accepted as a fundamental responsibility of society as a whole. Thanks to a series of measures, the energy saving achieved is equivalent to 40% of present consumption.

    Accumulated energy saving and total energy consumption in the Basque Country

    Natural gas and energy diversification
    The introduction of natural gas has had a decisive impact in two areas, transforming both the type of energy consumed and the way in which it is consumed. Natural gas has progressively replaced petroleum products while at the same time enabling the use of high-efficiency technologies, which would have been unthinkable using coal or oil. In this way, gas has introduced a new level of competitiveness in prices and high efficiency in industry. This development has been of key importance for the competitiveness of Basque industry on global markets and in maintaining industrial GDP and employment levels.

    The development of a Basque gas infrastructure constitutes one of the agency's most important activities to date. Without this intervention, natural gas would have developed later and to a lesser degree than it has, with all the consequences this would have had for the energy bill and industrial competitiveness.

    EVE's intervention has made it possible to speed up some very major investments and create a more capillary and grid-based distribution network, ensuring that today the Basque Country has a residential/commercial gas transport and distribution network reaching over 90% of the population and all of industry. Supply security has been further reinforced with the commissioning of a liquefied natural gas import plant in Bilbao Port, Bahía de Bizkaia Gas. Similarly, conventional power stations have been replaced by new high-efficiency natural-gas-burning plants - combined cycles.

    Compared to petroleum products, natural gas presents advantages in terms of cost, lower greenhouse gas emissions and a high degree of supply security, since it is more abundant and more widely distributed geographically. The Basque Country consumes 3 bcm of natural gas per year to cover all its energy needs. Although it has no domestic production, there are proven reserves which are currently awaiting testing for future use.

    Renewable energy
    The use of renewable energy sources has grown over the last 35 years from 2% of gross domestic consumption to 7%. Renewables account for the entirety of the region's self-sufficiency. The Basque Country has a limited available land area for introducing clean but land-extensive energy sources. Nonetheless, it has built a leading technological and industrial sector in this field which competes successfully on international markets.

    At different stages, the legal context has sometimes facilitated greater progress in renewables while at others it has slowed it down. EVE's task has been to carry out constant assessment and evaluation of available renewable resources from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power. In addition, Eólicas de Euskadi, joint-owned by EVE and Iberdrola has promoted the commissioning of a number of wind farms:
    • Elguea wind farm: 27 MW
    • Urkilla wind farm: 32.3 MW
    • Oiz wind farm: 34 MW
    • Badaia wind farm: 50 MW

    Investments in small facilities include:
    • Solar photovoltaic: over 4,000 kW
    • Small hydro: 13,000 kW
    • Wave power: 296 kW
    • Biomass, the most widely-used renewable energy source.

    Since 1984, Ente Vasco de la Energía has allocated over €30 million to promoting private investment in the installation of small renewable installations.

    Its commitment to the development of new technologies in the area of renewable energy is also reflected in projects for the future, such as,
    • BIMEP, offshore test centre for floating energy-generating devices.
    • Mutriku, the world's first commercial wave power electricity plant.
    • CIC energiGUNE, a centre researching energy storage technologies - an area of huge importance for mass deployment of renewables.

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