Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 925–956 | Cite as

Integrating energy and land-use planning: socio-metabolic profiles along the rural–urban continuum in Catalonia (Spain)

  • Pere Ariza-Montobbio
  • Katharine N. Farrell
  • Gonzalo Gamboa
  • Jesus Ramos-Martin


Abandoning fossil fuels and increasingly relying on low-density, land-intensive renewable energy will increase demand for land, affecting current global and regional rural–urban relationships. Over the past two decades, rural–urban relationships all over the world have witnessed unprecedented changes that have rendered their boundaries blurred and have lead to the emergence of “new ruralities.” In this paper, we analyze the current profiles of electricity generation and consumption in relation to sociodemographic variables related to the use of time and land across the territory of Catalonia, Spain. Through a clustering procedure based on multivariate statistical analysis, we found that electricity consumption is related to functional specialization in the roles undertaken by different types of municipalities in the urban system. Municipality types have distinctive metabolic profiles in different sectors depending on their industrial, services or residential role. Villages’ metabolism is influenced by urban sprawl and industrial specialization, reflecting current “new ruralities.” Segregation between work activity and residence increases both overall electricity consumption and its rate (per hour) and density (per hectare) of dissipation. A sustainable spatial organization of societal activities without the use of fossil fuels or nuclear energy would require huge structural and sociodemographic changes to reduce energy demand and adapt it to regionally available renewable energy.


Energy metabolism Electricity MuSIASEM Distributed energy generation Functional urban specialization Renewable energy Socio-metabolic profiles 



We would like to thank Joan Esteve, Albert Casanovas, Meritxell Baraut and Mercé García from the Catalan Institute of Energy (ICAEN), Dolors Olivares, Marta Masats and Maite Caramazana from the Catalan Institute of Statistics (IDESCAT) for their kind delivery of the data we requested. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their careful reading. Their insights helped to improve substantially the text. We would like also thank Joan Martinez-Alier for his intellectual support. We also would like to thank Arnim Scheidel, Violeta Cabello and Alevgul Sorman who provided helpful comments and insights to previous versions of this paper. We thank Marta Borrós who helped in GIS techniques and maps elaboration and Sara Mingorría who helped in statistical analysis. The fourth author acknowledges support from (i) the Consolidated Research Group on “Economic Institutions, Quality of Life and the Environment,” SGR2009–00962; and (ii) the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation project HAR-2010-20684-C02-01. The first author acknowledges support from the Spanish Government funded research project Metabolismo Social y Conflictos Ambientales (CSO2010 21979).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pere Ariza-Montobbio
    • 1
    • 2
  • Katharine N. Farrell
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gonzalo Gamboa
    • 2
  • Jesus Ramos-Martin
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.FLACSO Ecuador - La PraderaQuitoEcuador
  2. 2.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Division of Resource Economics, Department of Agricultural EconomicsHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Departament d’Economia i d’Història EconòmicaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), BarcelonaSpain

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