For months now, the constant and almost uncontrolled increase in energy prices has been the focus of conversations between citizens and companies concerned about the impact that the rise in electricity, gas and fuel prices is already having on their economies. A situation that has worsened as a result of the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine and that has only increased the debate about dependence on foreign sources for energy supply (which in Spain, and according to data from the National Institute of Statistics, is the 73%) and that has pushed countries such as Spain and Portugal to agree with the European Union on a series of measures that temporarily reduce the price of electricity and fuel. In the medium and long term, experts point out, the solution will be to promote renewable energies and improve waste management and energy efficiency, a context that will favor contracts linked to the energy sector in 2022, which will increase between 20 and 30 % compared to 2019 levels (and 72% compared to 2017), according to data from Hays Spain.
“The current energy model is still based, to a large extent, on the use of fossil fuels, whose reserves are finite and concentrated in the hands of a few countries, in addition to being tremendously harmful due to the production of greenhouse gases,” recalls Carlos Díaz-Guerra, professor at the Faculty of Physical Sciences at the Complutense University of Madrid. The growing difficulties in extracting oil, coal or gas have also led to extraction techniques that are as aggressive and harmful to the environment as fracking. For this reason, he points out, it is essential to promote the development and use of renewable energy sources, as well as a series of common policies at national and EU level and an awareness of the need and benefits of reducing the energy dependence of certain countries, without forgetting that “energy independence is synonymous with wealth for a country”, explains Díaz-Guerra: “Using its own energy resources should mean important business opportunities and a niche in the internal market, job creation and less chance that the system collapses due to lack of supply, due to wars or commercial disagreements between countries”.
Is it possible to achieve energy independence?
Adolfo Núñez, professor at the Master in Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency de Udima, points out that “energy dependence, which in Spain derives above all from the demand for fossil fuels, oil and natural gas, is a factor that conditions the economy and the development of a country in both the medium and long term.” And reducing this connection involves introducing changes at all levels: “With regard to governments (community, national or regional, regulations, laws and aid must be established that favor the development of clean energies of autonomous origin, as well as offering to private companies, which are the ones that will finance the projects, legal certainty during the time of return of their investments”. But not only that. “A large part of the reduction of this dependency will come from the electrification of transport, reducing the use of gasoline and diesel. But taking it to the entire national territory is not feasible or economically viable, so part of that consumption must be covered with biofuels of national production, “he adds.
For this expert, the role of clean energies such as solar and wind power will grow in importance in the future, while “biofuels, green hydrogen and energy storage will gain prominence, which will make it possible to cover the demand for electricity in those times when it cannot be supplied by wind and solar power”. Nuclear energy will continue to be relevant, among other reasons because it does not generate CO2 emissions and because, today and if it is eliminated, its production share should be covered by fossil fuels. For this reason, in the case of Spain and other countries in the community environment, the promotion and development of renewable energies is key: “Spain does not have gas or oil, but it has plenty of sun, we are not badly winded and we have certain water resources”, says Díaz-Guerra.
In fact, one of the goals of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 is to achieve a 42% share of renewable energy in the country’s final energy use, as well as a 40% improvement in energy efficiency. “Spain has the natural and human potential to achieve these goals, but it will not do so if the erratic policies in relation to renewables followed by previous governments persist, and if the administrative and bureaucratic obstacles that affect the development of the sector are not reduced” , claims the teacher of the Complutense. As the current models are not sustainable, the goal is to achieve energy sustainability, a state that not only includes environmental considerations, but also economic and social ones: “Energy production should be clean, but also affordable for the population that needs it and the country’s companies and industries, which are the ones that generate economic activity and create jobs,” recalls Núñez.
Research, inside and outside the academic world, is essential to achieve this energy sustainability. “There are working groups dedicated to energy in several Spanish universities,” says Díaz-Guerra. “Some are focused on the study of new materials for batteries; others that investigate structural materials for wind energy, with a more technological profile related to circuit technology, and even groups dedicated to obtaining high-value materials such as graphite and metal oxides, from the recycling of used batteries and mining waste” . “The circular economy already plays, and will play even more in the near future, a key role. It will make it possible to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, reduce water and soil contamination and reduce the demand for raw materials and critical materials, in addition to generating jobs and reducing maintenance costs”, she adds.
Professional profiles of the future
The advancement of clean energies such as wind and solar energy, the entry of new biofuels and other sources currently under development “have favored the creation, throughout the value chain, of hundreds of companies around this sector: engineering companies, installers, producers of energy, technical services, distributors and marketers…”, says Jacobo M. Lantero, associate at Hays Executive and energy specialist. A growth that, in turn, demands profiles of a very diverse nature, from engineers to senior technicians and from fields traditionally outside the sector, such as lawyers and specialized economists. “Today any profile can join a company linked to energy. For example, a profile in Business Administration and Management (ADE) can be formed with the different master’s degrees and postgraduate degrees that already exist. And the most common in the profile of project Manager, the most required by companies at the moment is that it has an Engineering base”, indicates Lantero.
In any case, at the university level, “the necessary qualifications or studies are fundamentally focused on STEM disciplines, whether they are scientific (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) such as engineering and computer science”, indicates Díaz-Guerra, for whom it is essential that the studies of corresponding degrees are complemented by completing a master’s degree or specialized training courses, “an aspect where I believe that Spanish universities must update and increase their offer”. Scientists, in short, “dedicated to the research and development of new materials for energy and the obtaining and reuse of recycled materials; engineers dedicated to the design of low-cost and sustainable energy storage devices, as well as efficiency-optimized electrical distribution networks and the design and operation of improved electrical installations; and computer scientists dedicated not only to controlling and optimizing the two-way flow of transactions, but also to modeling equipment and installations”.
“On the other hand, there are also several Vocational Training options that are based on learning based on specific projects, especially very focused on solar installations and wind generation stations,” adds Lantero, in addition to those related to green hydrogen and including welders and cryogenic equipment experts. Among the profiles most in demand today, it identifies, among others, sustainability managers, wind turbine technicians, solar consultants and compliance manager, a figure who ensures that the company he works for complies with legal requirements and internal policies, so that his commitment to sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency are real.
offset carbon footprint
“Offsetting the carbon footprint is key to financing climate action around the world. And it is because we cannot reach net zero emissions from one day to the next, so, in that transition, we need to support projects that reduce, avoid or capture carbon dioxide globally”, says Mauro Accurso, development manager of business of South Pole In the Iberic Peninsule. Sustainable agriculture, forest conservation, waste management, energy efficiency… Since its creation in 2006, they have developed some 1,000 projects in more than 50 countries, “managing to reduce a gigaton of CO2 and supporting less privileged communities, which are the most vulnerable to climate change”, in addition to advising thousands of companies in their sustainability and decarbonisation processes.
“The bottom line,” says Accurso, “is for an organization to accurately measure its footprint and reduce it as quickly as possible.” South Pole is present in 32 countries and is made up of a multidisciplinary team of nearly a thousand professionals including engineers, business and corporate sustainability consultants, finance experts, field project developers, and atmospheric and climate scientists, among others. others.
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