CEO of Atlantic Copper
“We have to create the conditions that will encourage new investment in order to expand existing companies and establish some completely new ones”
What is an industrial policy? Does it mean supporting sectors or leaving them flourish on their own?
I am more in favor of creating favorable conditions to strengthen industry and encourage new investment, both to help existing companies expand and encourage new companies to open, whether under foreign or national ownership. Favorable conditions mean conditions that generate competitiveness, not just in terms of costs but also in terms of regulatory competitiveness, in the sense of ensuring more stability and security in the legal system. In general, investments in industry tend to be very long-term affairs, and this means that numerous changes to regulations can generate disquiet, mistrust, and the withdrawal of investment. Of course, political stability is essential to ensuring that domestic and foreign investors can feel confident.
Do Spain’s energy prices erode our competitiveness?
There is no doubt about that whatsoever. Energy prices for large-scale consumers are not competitive, and this is particularly true for businesses that have very high electricity consumption. Energy is considerably more expensive in Spain than in France or Germany, for example, our two most important competitors when it comes to major energy consumers. And here we find at least two paradoxical facts. For one, Spain probably has one of the best energy generation mixes both within Europe and worldwide, since our supply is incredibly varied and balanced. Secondly, spending per inhabitant on electric energy in Spanish households is one of the lowest in Europe, standing at €1.30 per inhabitant per day, the equivalent of your daily coffee. In general, when you ask people how much their electricity bill is, they don’t know because it is very little. Clearly there are people for whom the smallest expense represents a lot of money, but this is not the case for the large majority of the population. In Spain there are two favorable conditions that mean the country’s residents do not need to use a great deal of energy: a good climate (it isn’t horribly hot in summer or horribly cold in winter) and a good hydraulic infrastructure with a very strong renewable energy component. We come in behind Germany, which has the biggest renewable segment in the world, and this is a good thing.
What priorities must Spain take on board when it comes to protecting the environment and sustainability?
We have to be at the forefront of the cleanup of industry and cities, and, of course, I’m referring to emissions into the atmosphere as well as the waste that ends up in our water. We also have to lead the way on the fight against climate change, reducing greenhouse effect gases (and specifically CO2) and the application of the Best Available Techniques (BAT) set out in the provisions of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive issued by the European Union, which is, in turn, based on the application of the best available technologies both in manufacturing and in environmental protection processes.
Do you think that Spanish markets need further liberalization?
This country is not very liberal, and there are some sectors that are not at all competitive, to put it mildly. Liberalization of markets is healthy and encourages people to put their skates on. Competition is the mother of all virtues, while oligopolies and monopolies—whether state or private–are the mother of all defects: they are terrible.