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Energy independence: yes, we can

"If the citizens of Catalonia had sovereignty over its energy system, they would gain considerably in various areas that, in general, depend little on the party in power or parliamentary majorities".

These are the words that lead off a report summarizing the conclusions of the 2nd Catalan Energy Congress (CoEnerCat). The speakers hoped to answer the following question: what would we gain in terms of Catalonia’s energy system, if we were an independent nation?

At a time when we need in-depth arguments and reflections on the risks and opportunities presented by the possible independence of Catalonia, the question of energy is, undoubtedly, one of the most critical issues.

Broadly speaking, it’s worth emphasizing at least two points. First: we currently have the infrastructure to guarantee energy supply and distribution to the entire country, as detailed in CATN’s Report 9 (1). And second: independence would allow us to bring in measures to have a better, more sustainable, accessible, and effective energy system. This is precisely where the conclusions of CoEnerCat make a magnificent argument.

In essence, as the authors of the report establish, the gains identified would be only a consequence of not being subject to the politics of "coffee for everyone" (2), of contempt for Catalonia as a peripheral region and at odds with EU requirements. But the gains could increase even further depending on who might govern the new country, and how they would go about it. In other words, statehood is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition.

The advantages noted are diverse: lower energy costs, better services, the possibility of eliminating energy poverty, reduction of energy dependence, and the creation of future and better-quality jobs. Each of these advantages is laid out in the report with an extensive and rigorous explanation that I recommend you read.

Among other things, the report notes, for instance, that being an independent country would allow Catalans to decide our energy policy according to our needs, resources, and the interests of seven million Catalan citizens. We could decide the energy (or other) infrastructures with major impact on energy consumption (Mediterranean railway corridor, railway connections with industrial hubs, etc.); negotiate electric and gas connections directly with the EU and neighboring countries (including Spain), as well as the Mediterranean corridor, management of shared waterways, participation in research projects, etc.; have regulatory and legal capability over the use of subsoil, marine waters, and waterways shared with Spain, France, and Andorra (disagreements would be resolved in international courts instead of Spain’s); companies would have to operate under Catalan rules, be headquartered in Catalonia, and pay taxes here; we could modernize the energy system with a corresponding reduction of costs, taking advantage of our own resources and the creation of new skilled jobs; guarantee coverage of basic energy needs for the population and local services and businesses in an equitable manner, within the complexity of the Catalan climate and territory, with due respect for the landscape and environment; ensure higher legal security for businesses, financial investments, and banks in a way that they would feel attracted to Catalonia, instead of wanting to leave due to the absence of clear, stable rules and the retroactive application of new regulations.

In short: the control of energy is crucial for any country, for economic reasons, for foreign dependence, for territorial equilibrium, for supplying the public health system, for jobs, for the welfare of the people, and to respect the environment.

All in all, then, I think it is worth the effort to stop and evaluate these arguments. From now until 27 September we have time to talk about everything, including energy. We have before us an opportunity to design and put in practice a better model, more sustainable, efficient, and with greater solidarity. For a state to have its own tools is only an instrument, not an end in itself. The opportunity cost of not taking advantage of 27-S to give ourselves the tools that we need to make a better country and society is too great to not take seriously. Without deceiving ourselves, but also without unnecessary or unfounded fears.

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(1) N.T. Advisory Council for the National Transition (CATN in Catalan)

(2) N.T. In recent Spanish politics, the phrase “coffee for everyone” refers to any policy that is implemented by the central government in Madrid to all the regions in Spain alike (except Navarre and the Basque Country), regardless of their individual needs and demands.