The energy transition challenge facing the city

The skyrocketing energy prices, added to an increasingly palpable climate emergency, are forcing cities to urgently face the need to commit to renewable sources and seek to achieve energy sovereignty as much they can. In this year's first issue of Barcelona Metròpolis, a number of experts present the initiatives that are already starting to be carried out and provide their analyses of the difficulties that hinder the way to a new energy model.

Cities, which are responsible for 70% of the world’s energy consumption, are now facing an urgent need to change the current model and address the situation of vulnerability in which many families find themselves. This crisis is riddled with unsolved questions, and the time available to make effective decisions is short. Renewable sources, cooperatives and association-based companies, as well as the appearance on the market of public electricity companies, are some of the possible tools that may help radically change the situation. Although the specialists behind the dossier “Un nou model energètic per a la ciutat” [A new Energy Model for the City] have provided a few ideas and answers, the dossier features a few questions and problems too. The reports, which have been published in issue no. 125 of the magazine Barcelona Metròpolis, are introduced by Milagros Pérez Oliva’s editorial “Avançar en la transició energètica” [Moving Forward in the Energy Transition].

The magazine’s special issue starts with a reflection by Marta García París on how the energy crisis affects people with fewer resources. In this, she calls for a long-term strategy in which no one is left behind and external dependence on fossil fuels is reduced and that involves a commitment to generating energy on a more local level and from non-polluting sources.

Joan Herrera, for his part, urges cities, which consume a large portion of the energy produced outside them, to commit to decarbonisation. In addition to advocating a mass deployment of solar and aerothermal energies, he introduces readers to the concept of citizen energy communities, a solution based on economies of scale that is already envisaged in a European directive.

The sociologist Josep Espluga addresses the social conflicts in the field of renewable energy infrastructures arising in the territory. According to him, “We will need political systems that are able to facilitate consensus, new ways of thinking and new narratives so that we can redefine socio-economic models in a way that is fairer and more sustainable.”

Assumpta Farran’s message, on the other hand, is one of optimism: thirty years of emission reduction policies are starting to yield results. “We are seeing very interesting things that are taking us further away from the apocalypse and collapse of civilisation scenarios predicted by some, bringing us closer to transforming the energy model,” she asserts.

If energy is seen as a right, local governments will feel that they have to act. Cristina Castells argues that, despite having no powers in the main areas of legislation, local governments can influence the main pillars of energy management in order to guarantee universal access to energy. Public energy companies have a lot to say and do in this regard. Iu Gallart defends this model, a non-profit model that “promotes the use of tools for less and better consumption”. The dossier concludes with an article about degrowth by Marcel Coderch titled “La fi de l’era de l’abundància” [“The End of the Time of Plenty”]. According to this, “Due to physical, geological and environmental reasons, the current economic model simply cannot continue.”

Also in Barcelona Metròpolis 

The interviews in the first issue of the year are all about poetry and dance. Francesc Bombí-Vilaseca interviews the poet Enric Casasses and provides a review of his early career, his many published works and his relationship with Barcelona and its cultural institutions. Bárbara Raubert interviews Àngels Margarit, who has been the director of the Mercat de les Flors since 2016 and has won the national dance prize awarded by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. “Many of our artists still tour only abroad, which makes us much less effective,” she laments.

In the section En trànsit [In transit], Agustí Fernández de Losada provides a faithful depiction of Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, a key analyst of modern diplomacy. This German-American political scientist came to Barcelona to take part in the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs’ (CIDOB) seminar “La guerra a Ucraïna. La dimensió urbana d’una amenaça geopolítica” [The War in Ukraine. The Urban Dimension of a Geopolitical Threat].

The evolution of names in Barcelona and how it reflects the core ideology on which the running of the city is based forms the foundation for Xavier Theros’ report “Visions urbanes” [“Urban Visions”]. In his report, Theros takes us on a chronological tour of the changes made to the names of the city’s streets and squares during the recent democratic period, from Narcís Serra to Ada Colau and including everything from erasing all names from the Franco dictatorship to increasing the proportion of women’s names.

The Barcelona en dades [Barcelona in Data] section takes a 24-hour snapshot of the city and provides in graphic form many figures that could relate to any day, ranging from the amount of waste collected to the number of kilometres of parks and beaches where residents can relax, as well as data on energy and water consumption, the average number of criminal offences per day, mobility figures, activity in Mercabarna, students enrolled in educational institutions, A&E activity on any given day, or data on Barcelona’s economic, commercial, cultural and tourism activities, among others.

The current true crime fever has come to the attention of the Debat [Debate] section, where nine industry experts share their analyses of the reasons behind the popularity of this genre. The Culture section also includes an article by Llucia Ramis titled “Wattpad: una altra manera de llegir” [Wattpad: A Different Way to Read] about a phenomenon that has shaken up the publishing world and in which young writers are following up their popularity on this platform with success in physical book sales.

Highlights in the Books section include Paolo Sustersic’s Barcelona brutalista y tardomoderna [Brutalist and Late-Modern Barcelona], in which he provides a review of Fredy Massad with the headline “Un replantejament necessari” [A Necessary Change of Approach]; and Jordi Sabater Pi, l’últim naturalista [Jordi Sabater Pi, The Last Naturalist], in which the author Toni Pou reclaims a legacy from the African rainforests. The review is by Sergi García.

The year 2023 is both the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso‘s death and the 40th anniversary of Joan Miró’s. This is why, from the autumn, Barcelona’s Picasso Museum and the Joan Miró Foundation will hold a joint exhibition about the relationship between these two geniuses. This provides the starting point for an article by Jaume Fabre on the relationship between Barcelona and the two authors.

The magazine concludes with the short story “Cruising” by the writer Sebastià Portell. The illustrations for this story, the cover and the special section in this issue are by David Sierra, and the photography insert is dedicated to Jordi Barreras and his work Already But Not Yet. In his photographs, taken in London’s financial district, he invites readers to reflect on the structures of financial power.