Interview: Assumpta Farran, Director, ICAEN

INTERVIEW with Ms. Assumpta Farran, Director, Catalan Institute of Energy

Sra. Assumpta Farran is the Director of the Catalan Energy Institute (ICAEN), the energy agency of the Government of Catalonia. Sra. Farran was integral in the 2018 launch of the National Agreement for the Energy Transition of Catalonia, a document which sets out the plans for an overhaul of the Catalan energy model, which will lead to the region being 100% reliant on renewable energy by 2050.

Assumpta also acts as the Chair of the GPEX Advisory Committee, which recently met in Barcelona, on 6th October 2017. 

1. ICAEN recently launched the National Agreement for the Energy Transition of Catalonia, what are the priorities of the agreement, and its short-term objectives?

The energy policy of Catalonia must face a Copernican change. The energy transition is inevitable, but public administration can contribute to accelerate or to brake it. Future governmental policies concerning taxes, incentives, public contracting and regulation of the electricity sector will set the level of commitment to the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the country.

The National Agreement for the Energy Transition of Catalonia has been approved by Catalan government. It identifies the catalysts of the energy transition, the mechanisms for financing it as well as the public governance instruments to guarantee the achievement of short, medium and long term objectives.

2. What do you believe are the challenges that you will face in implementing the transition, and how can they be overcome?

We are facing a social transition where climate change, air quality and democratization of the energy system will mark the way.

Disruptive technologies and elements such as electrical mobility, photovoltaic solar energy, that has cut by 8 its prices within the last 5 years, as well as the increasing possibility for generating, storing and sharing energy by consumers will empower the citizen to be the key actor of this change.

Shifting from a centralized to a distributed and renewable clean energy system will open the door to new business models that will place demand management at the top of the energy priorities of the country.

3. Clearly, to become 100% reliant on renewable energy for electrification, there needs to be significant phasing out of carbon intensive fuels across the supply chain. However, in order to ensure energy security in the medium to long term, what do you think the Catalan energy mix will look like in 10-15 years?

Last July of 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia approved the Climate Change Law, stating the obligation to denuclearize Catalonia by the year 2027. Catalonia is a country heavily dependent on nuclear energy and, at the same time, very rich in solar radiation. So that Catalonia has a great opportunity to substitute nuclear thermal by renewables.

It is the time for solar and wind power, by using the roofs of the buildings to generate electricity with photovoltaic energy. We need also to develop a strong program for transport electrification to guarantee its decarbonization and to provide the necessary distributed storage for the new renewable generation. 

Technologies such as V2G or V2H will be strategic for moving forward to a 100% renewable and distributed energy model. The resilience of the system within this transition will be provided by natural gas taking profit of the already existing and underused combined cycle power plants.

4. GPEX arrives in Barcelona in September 2018. What are you most looking forward about hosting an international energy event in your home city?

In fact, GPEX18 is not another international energy event, but it is the energy transition energy event. An energy transition process that is widely spread and advanced through an increasing number of countries around the world. 

Hosting this event in Barcelona give us the possibility to gather a significant number of experts as well as to share experience and know how on projects and policies developed. It will be really interesting, for instance, to discuss on the role of energy aggregators that are key actors to develop new business models based on demand management to enhance the participation of citizens and solar energy communities in the electricity market.

I am fully convinced that GPEX18 will contribute to the global world energy transition process and, locally, it will give a strong momentum to a clean, sustainable and decentralized energy transition in Catalonia.

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