Spanish solar association complains of discrimination as new “renewables” royal decree goes under the spotlight

Spain’s National Energy Commission (CNE) has confirmed to Renewable Energy Magazine this week that it has started analysing the proposal put forward by the Spanish Ministry of Industry to amend the current legislation on electricity produced using renewable technologies.

The CNE has until 8 October to submit an opinion to the Ministry of Industry on a document the Spanish government has prepared entitled "Proposal for Royal Decree regulating and amending certain aspects of the special regime”.

In this document – a copy of which has been obtained by Renewable Energy Magazine – the Ministry of Industry explains by way of a preamble that growth of facilities for generating electricity from sources included under the special regime (renewables, CHP and waste-to-power) has been very significant in recent years. It goes on to say that this situation and very rapid technological developments have led to the need for certain modifications.

The government says that "at present, approximately 25% of electricity produced is from renewable energy sources. This, combined with the structural features of our electricity system, calls for the implementation of additional technical requirements to guarantee system performance and enable the growth of these technologies".

ASIF presents arguments to the CNE

Aside from a number of general considerations, the Ministry of Industry also applies a series of changes that would affect the different technologies. In July, the solar thermal electric and wind sectors accepted the new rules. However, this has not been the case with the solar photovoltaic sector, which has challenged the government’s intentions.

The solar photovoltaic industry’s concerns have manifested themselves through a battery of allegations made by the Spanish Photovoltaic Industry Association (ASIF) before the CNE. The association has denounced the "discriminatory and baseless treatment" suffered by solar photovoltaic technology in the new rules drawn up by the Ministry of Industry.

In the arguments sent to the CNE, ASIF reports that the new rules establish that photovoltaic plants covered by the prevailing Royal Decree 661 will no longer qualify for the feed-in tariff after 25 years of operation, when current law allows them to continue to collect the premium beyond that time. This rule, reports ASIF, only applies to solar photovoltaics and not to the other technologies such as wind. In its opinion, this measure is "retroactive" and could be challenged in court.

ASIF also complains that solar photovoltaic plants will be required to include technical improvements to withstand voltage dips. The problem, says ASIF, is that they will have to do so without the public aid previously received by wind farms to perform similar upgrades.

45% tariff cut would lead to "shut down"

As for future tariffs, the solar photovoltaic association believes that a 45% reduction in the feed-in tariff for ground-based facilities to be applied in late 2010 will shut down that segment until module prices fall by the same rate. It will take years for that to happen. The problem too is that the new rule eliminates the current flexibility quota permitting surplus capacity from one type of plant to be transferred to another, i.e. from ground-based to rooftop arrays and vice versa.

In practice, ASIF calculates, the disappearance of the flexibility mechanism and the reduction in tariffs will lead to the solar photovoltaic market in Spain shrinking by 33%. It will decrease from 500 MW per year permitted by the Ministry of Industry to less than 350 MW.

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