Coal restructuring in Spain: Continuity and uncertainty?
The policies of coal energy are currently undergoing a significant change. At the European Community level, energy concerns are dominated by environmental commitments that seem to demand coal's disappearance. The countries that for years have supplied the European energy market with this resource have confronted their future challenges in differing ways. The history of the energy sector in Spain has been marked by important changes, and coal has been a key factor in this process. Membership in the European Union has constituted a clear transition for a historically subsidized and protected sector that now faces an uncertain role in the national energy market. The aim of this paper is to offer an overview and analysis of the mechanisms that have been implemented in the energy sector. The first part analyzes the rationalization policies that preceded Spanish entry into the EU, giving a detailed description of the complex programs designed by the government to help mining companies. The second part analyzes later systems aimed at helping the coal industry that were implemented after the EU imposed new criteria and objectives. These systems led to the so-called "mixed model" of rationalization. This model, which is completely different from that implemented in other member states, is based on maintaining a system of subsidies that discriminate between public and private companies. The third part examines the objectives of the current system and the plans projected for the future in the context of the EU's adoption of an energy strategy that seeks to reconcile a self-sufficient energy supply with adherence to environmental commitments.
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