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The Gibraltar Joint Group is a multi-disciplinary group of members of UK Engineering Institutions who live and/or work in Gibraltar.

Gibraltarian engineers meet energy challenge head on with high profile symposium.

Engineers in Gibraltar recently organised a hugely popular symposium attended by over 200 people including members of the Gibraltarian government and environmental NGOs.

Focusing on the energy crisis the country will face in an estimated 30 years, renowned speakers included IET president Dr Nigel Burton who gave the event’s keynote speech.

The Gibraltar Group of Professional Engineers (GGPE) is made up of IET, IMechE and ICE members and led by chairman Xavier Pons. The organisation of the symposium, entitled Energy Beyond 2040, was headed by Pons, who worked with his colleagues to create an event which used national television and advertising to pull in high profile attendees and figures.

The idea came to light as Gibraltar was awarding a contract for a new power station to replace three aging sites. Being self-sufficient for its electricity requirements, the GGPE thought it was important to consider what would be Gibraltar’s future energy sources when the situation dramatically changes in 30-40 years time.

“With these stations lasting 25-30 years and oil likely to see depletion in 40 or 50 years I think it’s important to get a discussion going in the public domain, as we’re facing a possible energy crisis in 30 years time,” Pons says.

This event was the first step to get the powers that be establishing exactly what was required to meet Gibraltar’s future energy needs.

“In a small place like Gibraltar we thought there was a need to establish exactly what was required to solve the problem,” Pons says. “We need a very reliable energy source as opposed to having a contribution, which is all wind and solar can offer.”

High profile speakers

With the idea of a public symposium conceived, Pons then used his contacts to arrange for three high profile speakers at the event: David Bingham, the leading consultant on Gibraltar’s new power station project, Juan Gari, a flow analyst who could outline the potential of Gibraltar as a location for the installation of submerged tidal current turbines, and IET president Dr Nigel Burton.

“We were very honoured to have these speakers,” says Pons. “It was particularly of interest to have Dr Burton attend as he’d just delivered a speech in the UK on the subject of keeping the lights on – discussing the same issue as us but with the UK in mind.

“When he heard about the symposium, he showed a real interest. We had him to talk on the general subject of renewables and he was briefed on how Gibraltar operates. He was briefed on our peculiarities, and came prepared to discuss our special needs. It was excellent to have such a high profile speaker,”

 “I also contacted David Bingham who was able to give an insight into the power requirements for Gibraltar, so the public could understand exactly what demands Gibraltar has and how they change during the course of the day.

“Then I managed to contact Juan Gari who works for Atlantic Resources Corporation, a company that’s developing submerged tidal current turbines, which are fitted to the sea bed. Gibraltar offers huge potential for that, so he was keen to give us a talk on the prospects. Of all the renewable energies that are available to us, the use of the water turbines in the straits of Gibraltar is the only viable option that can give a guaranteed reliable supply,” Pons explains.

Governmental figures attend symposium

With the pull of the speakers and the importance of the topic, Pons and his colleagues were also able to get some important figures to attend the event.

“We managed to get three members of government to attend, three members of the opposition party and leaders from the other parties,” he says. “We also had members of environmental NGOs there, who had been asking for things to be done in regards to renewable energy sources etc.” 

Pons was daunted by the concept of attracting a large crowd to a technical event, however the GGPE rose to the challenge in a big way with some impressive publicity.

The group organised a campaign of posters and flyers and used all available contacts.

“I happen to know the director of a bus company, so I managed to put a post in every single one of his buses!”

Low publicity costs and a stint on a live national TV debate

Paying for such a campaign would have cost a few hundred pounds so Pons saved cash there, but he also kept costs low by printing posters locally and also using a local graphic designer.

Apart from this and press features, the engineers participated in a live national television debate on the subject of renewables the week before the event.

Looking forwards – energy workshops

The symposium is to be a stepping stone forward on the discussions of Gibraltar’s energy future. From February he plans to begin energy workshops and work with schools and NGOs to look at the options.

For example, we are planning to have one which will deal with wind power, going into into great detail on how wind can help Gibraltar, and then decide what level of input from wind can be expected. The group plan to cover wind, then solar, wave energy, nuclear and hold a workshop every two months, and have a specialist speaker attend where possible. 

We jointly sponsor the Gibraltar Group of Professional Engineers.


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