Spanish electricity company emptying reservoirs for own profit

by Deborah Cater
Valdecañas reservoir Extremadura Image by reservoirs of Valdecañas via flickr.com under creative commons license

Municipalities in various parts of Spain accuse the Spanish multinational Iberdrola of emptying reservoirs, without authorisation, for their own gain. In Zamora, a reservoir was virtually emptied in ‘six weeks’.

Municipalities in Zamora saw their reservoir drop from 95% of its capacity to 12% in four months as a result of two sharp falls. The reservoir management company recorded one decline in April and one in July. These were in the context of rising gas prices and the consequent increased demand for hydropower production.

‘False drought’

According to the mayors who have filed a complaint, Iberdrola does not comply with climate change, environmental and sustainability legislation. The water reservoirs are starting to look completely dry. This is not due to a lack of rain. In fact, electricity companies are opening floodgates to generate cheaper electricity for their own profit in the face of rising energy prices.

People living near the reservoirs of Valdecañas (Cáceres) and Ricobayo (Zamora), among others, are denouncing this ‘false drought’. In response, Iberdrola promised on Thursday before the Duero Hydrographic Confederation (CHD) not to further lower the water level of the Ricobayo reservoir (Zamora).

The CHD subsequently stated the supplies of water are “insured” and the company has shown its commitment.

The Confederacy also recognised the damage the over-emptying of the reservoir has caused to the area’s activities. Therefore, all stakeholders have been invited to participate in the process of the hydrological plan review. They aim is to come up with proposals to prevent this type of situation in the future.

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Letter about ‘abuse practices’ to EU commissioners

Iberdrola’s statement comes a day after 16 mayors of the area signed a document addressed to the European Commissioners with responsibilities for the environment and the Green Deal. They outlined “the abusive practices” of the electricity company; stating its “effects on inhabitants, ecosystems and verify the economy of these very vulnerable rural contexts”.

The “excessive emptying'”of the Ricobayo reservoir has led to a “brutal degradation of the territory and its habitat”. It leaves damage “very difficult to repair”, both from a landscape and economic point of view, the letter reads. 

Spanish government response

Meanwhile, there is also a reaction from the Spanish government. Environment Minister Ribera called the situation  “outrageous”. She assured the electric company is already under investigation and a letter has been sent “to tell them this is not possible”.

“It’s not reasonable to empty a reservoir in practically six weeks, as happened in Zamora,” the third vice president denounced in an interview on La Sexta’s Al rojo vivo program. Ribera further argued that Article 55 of the Water Act will have to be applied. This provides that for extraordinary reasons limitations may be imposed on the emptying of the reservoirs.

Environment Minister Ribera proposed setting up a public company to bring the hydropower concessions together once their concession term expires. This actions was previously proposed by coalition partner Unidas Podemos.

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