The Canary Islands will not be able to complete its ecological transition process and achieve 100% clean energy production until a hydroelectric plant is installed in Tenerife. "If we do not have that infrastructure, the decarbonization of the archipelago is science fiction", assures José Antonio Valbuena, Regional Government's Minister of Ecological Transition, to El Confidencial about a facility that would mean a 30% increase in the penetration of renewable energies on the island.
There is consensus on the planned location between the Canary Islands administrations and also technical agreement with Red Eléctrica de España (REE), but the final decision to initiate the file has not been taken by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.
Valbuena's calculations point to an investment of around 800 million euros, which would be amortized in a few years, since this plant would be able to cover the entire electricity demand of Tenerife for 6 hours a day. In addition, it would reduce the current cost of energy.
The location chosen to locate it is the municipality of Güímar in whose ravines an illegal activity of aggregate extraction was developed for decades, which has left serious environmental traces. "It is the only viable point on the island that has sufficient slopes to guarantee the necessary waterfall," adds Valbuena.
For the Canary Islands Minister, this is an essential work that will allow the longed-for storage of renewable energy at times when the demand for electricity does not require it, in addition to an ever-increasing demand. In the Canary Islands, wind farms, solar parks and self-consumption are growing at a great pace, so that the installed power is around 30%.
"The Ministry is willing to study it, but decarbonization cannot be achieved with willingness. We are talking about a plant that we urgently need."
However, the penetration of clean energies in the electric grid of the archipelago is only 20%, a difference that the counselor blames on the important losses caused by not having a storage infrastructure such as the power plant planned in Güímar.
On the part of the regional government, the commitment is maximum. And also the haste. "We are ready to grant all the administrative and environmental authorizations within one year. The Ministry is willing to study it, but the Canary Islands cannot be decarbonized with willingness. We are talking about a plant that we urgently need".
Correcting one of the worst environmental outrages
The hydroelectric power plant is located in a point well remembered by the Canary Islanders: the Güímar ravines. In them were practiced, illegally and without control, extraction of aggregates that damaged the territory leaving a landscape full of large holes that also killed some endemic species and put at risk the aquifers.
A whole nonsense that ended with prison sentences and substantial compensation for damages for the businessmen who exploited those lands, given the impossibility of complying with the court ruling that initially ordered the restoration of the damage caused by the extractive activity.
With the projected installation "we correct this outrage", emphasizes the counselor. "All the existingholes will be covered with the reservoirs needed to produce the waterfall and with the earthworks that the work will cause. This regeneration will also allow the recovery of the environmental richness of the area, both in terms of landscape and biodiversity".
The counselor concludes that this infrastructure "has only advantages. In addition to solving a very serious environmental problem by recovering the environment, we would obtain clean and cheaper energy to be able to comply with the decarbonization plans of the Canary Islands on time ".
"It only has advantages: it solves a major environmental problem by recovering the environment and we would obtain clean and cheaper energy."
This aspect is what worries the most. The Canary Islands has lowered to 2040 the year of its total decarbonization. The archipelago depends on imports of fossil fuels to generate electricity in power plants that are among the most polluting in the country, according to a report by the Ministry for Ecological Transition. And it also has a low penetration of renewables. The latest official data put the figure at around 20%, as opposed to the 46% average for Spain.
Many other aspects revolve around this energy transition. Valbuena highlights the special vulnerability of the islands to climate change. The estimate made by the University of La Laguna for the second half of this century suggests that the archipelago will suffer greater desertification, scarcity of rainfall and rising sea levels , which will cause major landscape and socioeconomic changes.
It is predicted that around 10% of the population living on the coast would have to move inland.
As an example, it is expected that around 10% of the population living on the coast would have to leave the coast to move inland.
Gran Canaria makes progress in its ecological transition
In Gran Canaria, with a budget of 589 million euros, work is progressing on the Salto de Chira, a reversible pumped-storage hydroelectric plant that will function as the island's large renewable energy storage reservoir. Its commissioning will enable it to achieve decarbonization around 2035.
This facility takes advantage of the existence of two large reservoirs located in the interior of the island to build a 20 MW pumping station between them. According to REE forecasts, it will increase renewable production by 37% and improve the guarantee of supply and the security of the system.
It will be the largest, but not the first to be commissioned in the archipelago. Since 2014, the Gorona del Viento power plant in El Hierro has combined a wind farm with a waterfall to produce electricity. With its more than 11,000 inhabitants, the island has been able to supply up to 60% of its electricity thanks to this clean-source infrastructure.
The Canary Islands will not be able to complete its ecological transition process and achieve 100% clean energy production until a hydroelectric power plant is installed in Tenerife. "If we do not have this infrastructure, the decarbonization of the archipelago is science fiction," says José Antonio Valbuena, the regional government's Minister of Ecological Transition, to El Confidencial about a facility that would mean a 30% increase in the penetration of renewable energies on the island.