The Government of Alberto Núñez Feijóo learned weeks in advance of Iberdrola’s plan to empty the Cenza and As Portas reservoirs (Vilariño de Conso, Ourense) in the midst of escalating electricity prices. Two e-mails sent by the electricity company to the Xunta’s nature conservation service show that the Galician administration had all the information about the electricity company long before two of its main reservoirs in Galicia began to run out of water. After the meeting of his Government this Thursday Feijóo has denied it: “The companies did not communicate their decision to us.” The Iberdrola emails, to which elDiario.es has had access and which can be consulted at the bottom of this information, demonstrate the opposite. Feijóo knew it and did nothing to prevent it.
The Government opens a file with Iberdrola and Naturgy for the emptying of four reservoirs in Galicia
Like the Xunta, the central government also learned first-hand about the electricity company’s intentions through subsequent communications, sent by Iberdrola to the Miño-Sil Hydrographic Confederation, dependent on the Ministry of Ecological Transition. While the Xunta did not do anything with the information, the Executive of Pedro Sánchez sent the data immediately to the 112 emergency services of Galicia and Castilla León. According to sources from the ministry led by Teresa Ribera, the central government “lacks the powers” to act against the electricity companies, as long as they comply with the terms of the concession that allows them to obtain electricity from the rivers through drains. In the case of the Galician community, the situation is different; An old fishing law issued in 1992 and normatively developed in 1997 allows Feijóo to stop the disembarkation, arguing that these can compromise the ichthyological species (fish) that inhabit the affected basins.
According to Galician legislation (139/1997), Iberdrola is obliged to notify the Xunta each time it starts up an emptying of more than 80% of the capacity of a reservoir in Galicia. Concessionary companies have to give notice at least one month in advance. This regulation empowers the Galician Government to “monitor and coordinate” the execution of the drains, as well as “authorize” or “cancel” the discharges with criteria of “protection and conservation of aquatic fauna.” According to the information in the possession of this newspaper, neither Iberdrola complied nor the Xunta compelled it to do so.
Emptied in less than a month
The email in which Iberdrola announced that it was beginning to empty Cenza was sent on June 10 and 25 days later the flow of that reservoir was already at 19.99% of its capacity. When the electricity company began to drain water, the megawatt hour was paid at 83.34 euros; at the end, the price was already 93.85 euros, 12.6% more expensive.
In the case of the As Portas reservoir, Iberdrola repeated its strategy: it notified the Feijóo Government on July 12 at 2:55 p.m. and on July 23 (12 days later) the water level was already at 19, 89%. According to the flow data collected by the Miño-Sil Hydrographic Confederation, the company did not comply with the month of notice established by Galician legislation for massive emptying. A spokesperson for the electricity company has forwarded to elDiario.es its version of the events in the following terms: “Iberdrola made the communications at the moment in which there were expectations of the drops to those volumes. The company does not manage the electrical system that it is the one that, through the market, determines when electrical productions are required and with what type of technologies “.
In the emails sent by the electricity company on June 10 and July 12, it is specifically stated that the communications are carried out “in compliance with the provisions of the Galician Fishing Law”. The Xunta says the opposite: that the management of these reservoirs does not correspond to the autonomous government, as it is a basin that passes through several autonomous communities. In other words, Feijóo implies that what happens in the Sil river is not under his command nor does it have to comply with the requirements of Galician law, which is valid for the rest of the territory.
The Ministry of Environment confirms, in communication with this newsroom, that it decided to ignore the notice made by Iberdrola. The Xunta’s argument is that the sender of the notice was not correct and that it should have been the Ministry for the Ecological Transition who warned them of the plan to drain Cenza and As Portas. In a statement sent to this newsroom, this department of the Xunta assures: “The Xunta did not receive any official communication from the Hydrographic Confederation, which is the body that must notify the Department of the Environment to transfer the appropriate measures” . From there, the executive led by Alberto Núñez Feijóo chose to turn a deaf ear while Iberdrola released the water flow at the exact moment when energy prices began to skyrocket.
Although Feijóo learned about Iberdrola’s strategy on June 10, his first statements on the matter did not occur until August 30, 50 days later. By then the controversy had already reached the media and on the front pages of the newspapers it was reported that the price per megawatt hour reached 124.45 euros on average. That day, the president of the Xunta gave his first opinion about the power plant’s maneuver: “We cannot accept it, it seems absolutely inappropriate.” In the course of those statements, the Galician baron argued that the emptying carried out by Iberdrola was promoted “without the knowledge of the autonomous government.” The emails, to which this wording has had access, prove otherwise.