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The Region of Navarra, Spain: creating jobs and a resilient economy

In the mid-1980s, 86% of energy in Navarra was not locally produced. But today a region that used to be highly dependent on imported fossil fuels with wildly fluctuating prices has instead become a leader in the generation of renewable energies.

In 1994, when the first Renewable Energy Plan was adopted, the region was characterized by high incomes and low unemployment. However, its economy was highly dependent on just a few industrial sectors, especially the automotive industry, which at the time was threatening to move its production out of Spain.

Determined to become less dependent on expensive fossil fuel imports, build a more diverse, resilient economy and create stable local jobs, the regional government teamed up with the trade unions, civil society and local authorities and business associations to launch a strategy designed to shift the region’s energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables.

To address the shortage of skilled workers, a Renewable Energy Training Centre was set up for the young and unemployed as well as for workers employed in the new sector. At the same time, a national centre for applied research on solar, wind and biomass energies was established. Today, this facility is internationally recognised, has 200 researchers working there, implements projects on five continents and uses the very latest, cutting-edge technologies.

Even though a lot still needs to be done before the use of fossil fuels can be phased out altogether, impressive results have already been achieved:

For instance, the renewable energy sector in Navarra today comprises more than 100 companies, including factories manufacturing wind turbines and solar photovoltaic components, operators providing operational and maintenance services for renewable energy systems, and research and development facilities. Between them, these companies generate annual revenue totalling €3.5 billion per year, directly employ 3,800 people (2.6 times the total in 2002) and account for 5% of the region’s GDP (which is more than double the average rate of the sector throughout Spain, related to national GDP (2.4%)).

Navarra-based companies manufacture 17% of all wind turbines sold worldwide. In terms of renewable energy production, 81% of the electricity consumed in the region now stems from renewable sources (compared to 42.4% for Spain as a whole and 20.6% for Europe according to 2011 figures). The region has proven unusually resilient to the impact of the economic crisis, and since 2008 Navarra’s GDP has dropped by 5.1% less than national GDP over the same period.

Since 2009, Spain’s central governments have drastically cut support programmes for renewable energies, effectively halving the number of jobs in the sector nationwide. For example, in July 2013 the government adopted an energy reform that champions fossil fuels and maintains the oligo

 This Green success was published in the brochure "Green Jobs: Successes and Opportunities for Europe" of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament. 

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