India REPORT. In Spain, the days of coal are numbered

11:25  29 july  2020
11:25  29 july  2020 Source:   ouest-france.fr

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Frán Gómez et María Luisa Valdés devant la centrale de Soto de la Barca. © Baptiste Langlois Frán Gómez and María Luisa Valdés in front of the Soto de la Barca power station.

Half of the last fifteen thermal power plants in the country closed at the end of June. In Asturias, a region with a strong mining tradition, the population understands but fears the economic consequences.

The times seem so distant to them. That of trucks loaded with coal, parked anarchically in front of the restaurant La Casera. Seated on the terrace, María Luisa Valdés and Frán Gómez have a direct view of what built, stimulated and then consumed the activity of the territory: the coal-fired power station of Soto de la Barca, in Tineo.

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Built in the 1960s, in a green valley in Asturias, this power station ceased operations for good on June 30. Like six other coal-fired power stations out of the fifteen that remained in Spain . The owner companies have decided not to bring them up to the environmental standards required by the European Union. Too expensive, not profitable.

The less pollution, the better, introduces Frán Gómez, maintenance supervisor at Soto de la Barca. But we need alternatives! People do not realize the impact that is coming. The valley lived off the power station, it will die without it. A feeling of abandonment shared by María Luisa Valdés, 52, spokesperson for a collective opposed to the closure. As early as January 2019, we were promised commissions to think about the future of the place. Biomass? Renewable energies? Energy storage? We are still waiting…

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Since then, almost all employees have left, on early retirement or reclassified to other sites owned by the owner Naturgy. No layoffs of course, but as many families packing up. Only six employees will remain for the dismantling, which should last from three to five years.

Frán Gómez, a 35-year-old father, will not be. He asked for his transfer, resigned to the passivity of regional and national authorities. Coal mining and Asturias is a story that began in 1830 and long ensured the development of the region. We seem to be forgetting it, in the inevitable march towards less polluting electricity production, believes the Soma-Fitag-UGT union. Addiction is very important. It is inconceivable that alternative plans are presented in other affected regions, and not at home, criticizes José Luis Alperi, his general secretary, at the union's headquarters in Langreo.

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La centrale thermique à charbon de Lada, à Langreo, est condamnée. Dans les faits, elle ne produit déjà plus. © Baptiste Langlois The coal-fired power station of Lada, in Langreo, is doomed. In fact, it is already no longer producing.

Not far, impossible to miss the fireplace. It dominates the fifth city of Asturias which is spread out around the coal-fired power station of Lada, built in the years 1940. What goes for Soto de la Barca, in Tineo, goes for Lada, in Langreo , slips the trade unionist. Iberdrola, the owner, has asked the government for permission to shut down Lada, which is already no longer producing, but has yet to submit a reclassification for the site.

Eighty employees out of the 200 present in 2017 have already been transferred. The social situation will only get worse, considering all the activities that revolve around the plant, says Angel García Montes, union representative at the plant.

The blow is going to be tough for the municipalities. It is more than a million euros of local taxes per year which will not arrive any more , admits María Luisa Valdés, ex-elected of Tineo. In the order of 850,000 € for Langreo, calculates Mayor Carmen Arbesú. The days of coal are numbered, as we know, but companies cannot have exploited - and disfigured - the territory and left without leaving anything. Langreo embarked on industrial tourism, hoping to capitalize on its mining past. But, concludes the mayor, the museums will never bring in as much as the power station.

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Ángel García Montes, délégué syndical de la centrale de Lada (à gauche), avec ses collègues Julio César Areces et José Luis Alperi. © Baptiste LANGLOIS Ángel García Montes, union delegate from the Lada central (left), with his colleagues Julio César Areces and José Luis Alperi.

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