La Palma wants to be sustainable and scientific
August 3, 2022

The Government’s special commissioner for the reconstruction of the island of La Palma, Héctor Izquierdo , has presented the main lines of the plan that he wants to implement to revive the island’s economy. It has done so at the inauguration of the conference “The eruption of La Palma: science and technology in emergency management” , directed by Complutense professor Eumenio Ancoechea , within the program of the UCM Summer Courses in San Lorenzo of El Escorial. The two main objectives of the plan, as announced by Izquierdo, are to ensure that the island is powered by 100% renewable energy and that around10% of its GDP is related to science .

Héctor Izquierdo, Secretary of State for the Treasury until last June , is in charge of this Commissioner created by the Government -depending on the Ministry of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory- to stimulate the reconstruction of the Island of the Palm. As he pointed out, his priority today is to keep interest in the island alive. “Let us not forget. That an eruption continues to exist, even if it is in another situation, and that the problem is still there ,” said the commissioner, who is a native of the island itself.

The commissioner considers that La Palma has a “beautiful challenge” before it , such as its reconstruction, and that although it will not be easy, it is a great opportunity for the island itself and the palm growers . The reconstruction plan, as Izquierdo explained, is structured in three phases . The first is “help” . It is about giving homes to those who lost it, subsidies to those who lived from agriculture or starting employment plans. The second phase, called “bridge” , is compared by Izquierdo to the Marshall Plan. Investments must be mobilized in certain sectors to mobilize the island’s economy through them. The last phase will be the “productive”. The commissioner estimates that it will start within 4 or 5 years . The idea is that the economy of the island is as sustainable as possible and quality its hallmark . The focus areas will be agriculture, tourism – “possibly we will have to look for a more selective tourism than the current one ” – and science.

The plan is to take advantage of the island’s natural wealth – a biosphere reserve – and the “tail wind” of the eruption . Thus, for example, La Palma can be a world reference for volcanology studies , have a first-rate research institute or center, and even launch postgraduate and graduate studies on this science. Just as the Canary Islands are already a benchmark in the “study of the sky” , through the Roque de los Muchachos Astrophysical Observatory on the island of Tenerife, Commissioner Izquierdo also thinks that it can be a benchmark in the “study of the earth” , through the installation on La Palma of a volcanological observatory that shares prominence with the existing one in Hawaii. The attraction of researchers, teachers, students, even a type of scientific tourism, geotourism, will boost the economy of the island. The calculations place between 6 and 10 the percentage of the GDP of La Palma that is related to science .

Finally, the plan wants to take advantage of the moment to ensure that the island uses only renewable energy . The great asset is geothermal energy . The model to follow is that of the Portuguese island of San Miguel. It is intended that, as in it, the energy consumption of the island has its base cycle in geothermal energy and is supported by the peaks in demand in other renewable energies , especially wind, solar and hydraulic energy, which are also abundant in La Palma. “We are facing a beautiful challenge” 。