Jesús Zaldúa
former CEO

Getting Local Communities Involved

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 17:22

In a country rich with diverse cultures, customs, and languages, Jesús Zaldúa Lasa, former CEO of Gamesa Energy, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the unique social characteristics of the areas where investors are looking to construct their next renewable energy projects. He attributes the success of Gamesa in large part to the company’s attention to the specific social conditions of each community and its long-term goal of keeping communities involved in project development and beyond. “We were completely overwhelmed by the extraordinary cultural diversity in this wonderful country,” says Zaldúa Lasa, who previously worked in Spain, China, India, and Germany. “Mexico has taught us that the reality on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is not the same as the reality in the capital of Oaxaca, which is different from the reality in the Sierra Mixteca.” Approaching communities and evaluating their specific social and economic needs has been easier for Gamesa than for similar companies from other countries, he speculates, given the similarities between the two cultures. Spain and Mexico share a common language but, as Zaldúa Lasa explains, “we share a lot of the same values: family, food and people. We are able to adapt our plans and be flexible with our development strategy depending on conditions. This is much more related with culture than language.” Yet after a company has successfully entered a community, there is still much to negotiate before a project can successfully begin. “First of all,” said Zaldúa Lasa, “we must be renting the land at a fair price.” Once a fair price for the land has been established, it is a question of negotiating the price of production, he explains, which must also meet international standards. “Local communities should be directly participating in the construction of the wind farm,” said Zaldúa Lasa. “We have appointed a committee to look at property rights, and another committee that is working directly with the communities where wind farms will be built to discuss how local people can share in the jobs that are created.” He adds that another crucial issue is to respect the environment during the construction process. “We have to take responsibility and cover all of the damage done to the land during construction.”

In the long term, local job creation remains one of the most important pieces of Gamesa’s development strategy. “You must give security of employment to the local families who own the land. All of this, in the end, benefits everyone.” While the relatively new and small wind industry in Mexico makes it difficult for Gamesa to contract local manufacturers, Zaldúa Lasa explains that Gamesa would eventually like to have 100% of the maintenance to wind farms performed by local employees. “80% of the maintenance will be immediately done by local people and, in the long term, it will be 100%,” he said. “There is no reason to import Spanish staff or any other people.”