The history of the Mutua Eléctrica de Sant Julià de Lòria began in the communal mill where the parishioners had taken to grinding the wheat to make flour, the millstones driven by the current of the river. This happened when the world was about to experience the outbreak of the Great War, in a country that had just launched the road, a basic infrastructure it had longed for.
Sant Julià, 1913. The whole town agreed to go ahead with an electricity generation project. In Andorra there was already a small hydraulic power station, owned by Tabacalera Andorrana S.A., on the Roc de les Anelletes (Andorra la Vella), built in the first decade of the century for the operation of the tobacco factory and which at night illuminated Andorra la Vella and Escaldes. Later, in 1921, the energy of this power station allowed Nord Andorrà to serve the parishes of La Massana and Ordino. The singularity of the initiative of Sant Julià involved the collaboration of all the families of the parish, that the document of concession of the lands where the turbine would be installed; of 4 January 1914, left patent in the first point. The pact was sealed by the Common, Mariano Betriu, with Francisco Cairat, Pere Canturri and Juan Canturri, president, treasurer and secretary of the then new Mútua Eléctrica. “Every individual residing in this parish is given a period of three months, counting from today, to be able to be part of society”. This inclusive nature of the institution is often pointed out as one of the keys to the permanence, usefulness and vitality of the Mútua. From its beginnings, Mútua was born for everyone.
In 1914, Mútua was already supplying electricity to the town of Sant Julià. It authorised the consumption of artificially lit irons and tables, such as dressmakers and tailors, for a price of three pesetas per year. The supply was made from certain hours. In summer, from 7pm until 4am. And in winter, from 5pm to 4am. Autumn was the most complicated season for electricity production.
At that time, the General Council of Andorra saw the Principality’s natural resources as a possible way of obtaining infrastructure through concessions to foreign companies, since the country’s economy did not generate the necessary accumulation to face the necessary investments. Thus, during the first third of the 20th century, there was an intense enough activity of granting the most varied concessions, most of which were never executed.
The main concern of the General Council throughout history had been the proper maintenance of pedestrian or cavalry paths. Until the beginning of the 20th century, from the French side, the road from Soldeu to Pas de la Casa was not built and, in the interior, the road from Andorra la Vella to Escaldes and Encamp. They were three-metre-wide roads, built by the same Council. On the Spanish side, Copríncep Benlloch managed to get Spain to pay for the road between the border and the Plaza de Andorra la Vella, inaugurated in 1913.
The concession for the exploitation of Andorra’s water resources was finally obtained, after the mentioned abandonments, by the company Fuerzas Hidroeléctricas de Andorra S.A. (Fhasa). A company made up of Spanish and French capital that established, from the beginning, that the possible participation of Andorran capital would have to be subscribed by both sides.
The Council approved the concession to Fhasa in March 1929, ratified by the co-princes between August – the French co-prince – and September – the bishop of Urgell. The content of the concession reached the exploitation of three waterfalls for seventy-five years, the exploitation of mineral resources for ten years and the monopoly of advertising throughout the entire concession. In return, Fhasa had to pay an annual canon for a progressive value of 25,000 pesetas, from 1945 until the date of the end of the concession. Fhasa also assumed the creation of a uniformed order service to maintain the proper conservation and exploitation of the facilities. This service began in May 1931. Furthermore, 10% of the power produced was reserved for Andorra at a special price. Similarly, Fhasa undertook to make the roads from Andorra la Vella to Escaldes, from Encamp to Soldeu and from Andorra la Vella to Ordino, among others.
In August 1931, the first auxiliary waterfall came into operation. Andorra would then have a daytime electricity supply. In October 1935, the Junta General of the Mútua de Sant Julià agreed to grant Fhasa permission to begin work on the connection to the Sant Julià network. The mill’s power station had been in service until then, but it had become too small.
The electrical distribution of Vila de Sant Julià was maintained by Mútua, supplied by Fhasa. Outside the village, he was in charge of the company Electricidad Andorrana S.A., the subsidiary of the Spanish-French company created for this purpose.
The concession of Fhasa, though, was conflicting from the beginning. The tensions between the General Council and the concessionaire and the feeling of lack of supply from the citizens motivated the action of a group of Andorrans who, in 1970, blew up a pylon in La Margineda. The explosion of the artifact left the parish of Sant Julià without light. Throughout this decade, Fhasa’s nationalization proposal reached the Magna Assembly, which voted against it, stating the lack of the necessary means and personnel to take on a potentially deficient public service.
In Sant Julià, negotiations with Fhasa and the subsidiary EASA lead Mútua to acquire the entire distribution network that EASA had for the parish. In May 1977, during the presidency of Ricard Tor i Riba, the Mútua became the sole distributor for the whole of Sant Julià. A visionary initiative and, in the long run, fruitful from a business point of view, but which at that time entailed “terrible economic problems”, according to Francesc Roca, since he had to cope with the installation of new lines to provide service to the quarters and the renovation of some of those already deployed by EASA.
The conflict between the Andorran institutions and Fhasa remained latent until 1988, the year in which the head of government Josep Pintat i Solans proposed to the General Assembly the rescue of the concession, approved unanimously. The Spanish-French company ceased early and the Government bought the entire electric patrimony of the entity for 3,500 million pesetas in order to redeem for the national patrimony the leadership in the development of the electric sector. Josep Cases Barón, then president of the Mútua, remembers the moment as “an important step. The country recovered the source of energy, which was in the hands of a foreign company. It was a totally speculative society.” For Albert Pintat, then personal secretary to the head of government, “it was the culmination of a struggle that the Mutua had lived in the front line, because it was the only one that knew how to resist a type of economic imperialism that Fhasa had towards the recalcitrants of Sant Julià”. Albert Pintat finds that the president Joan Pintat i Solans – his uncle – had the “will, the drive and parliamentary support to recover the initiative in terms of energy generation”.
Francesc Roca explains that he “intervened, because, as we had a good relationship [with the head of the government], he contacted me several times to show me the budgets he presented and to see what I thought of the prices”. Roca remembers the “great management” of Josep Pintat i Solans: He did it all. When he had the numbers clear, he called the Conselll and said, “This is what we are dealing with. Since I am well aware that the Fhasa affair is a thorn and also creates problems and difficulties, in the Government we have come to the conclusion of buying it. He had unanimous support.”
The result was the creation of the parapublic entity Fuerzas Eléctricas de Andorra, Feda, set up on 14 January 1988 with the corporate purpose of producing, importing and distributing energy. It was also empowered to carry out activities involving the cogeneration of electricity and useful heat and trigeneration, the marketing of the resulting cold and heat and the purchase of electrical energy produced by other natural or legal persons within Andorra from renewable energies.
SANT JULIÀ DE LÒRIA
A unique natural environment
General view of Sant Julià de Lòria at the beginning of the 20th century. Photo: Archive M.Mas.
“Installation of the power line attached to the Molí Fariner
(photo Fundació Julià Reig) “
This society, conceived and created at the service of the parish, fulfills one hundred years of existence. Let this be the necessary cohort to continue and persevere in this common task. In memory and homage to the people who made this milestone possible:
Mr. Francisco Cairat Freixes
1st President of the Constituent Board of the Mútua Elèctrica of Sant Julià de Lòria.
Photo: Family Cairat’s archive.
Mr. Pere Canturri Moles
1st vice president of the Constituent Board and Treasurer of the Inspection and Administration Board of the Mútua Elèctrica of Sant Julià de Lòria.
Photo: Pere Canturri Family’s Archive.
Mr. Joan Canturri Pallares
1st Secretary of the Constituent Board of the Mútua Elèctrica of Sant Julià de Lòria.
Photo: Joan Canturri Family’s Archive.
Mr. Julià Reig Roqueta
1st President of the Inspection and Administration Board of the Mútua Elèctrica of Sant Julià de Lòria.
Photo: Reig Family’s Archive.
Mr. Anton Huguet
1st vice president of the Inspection and Administration Board of the Mútua Elèctrica of Sant Julià de Lòria.
Photo: Pujol Family’s Archive.
Mr. Agustí Marfany
1st Secretary of the Board of Inspection and Administration of the Mútua Elèctrica of Sant Julià de Lòria.
Photo: Agustí Marfany Family’s Archive.