Spanish energy regulator blasts government proposals

Spain’s small-scale photovoltaic sector has just received strong backing from the country’s powerful energy regulator, the National Energy Commission (CNE), which confirmed its own opposition to the introduction of new electricity fees for renewable power generated by electricity consumers for self-consumption.

The National Association of Renewable Energy Producers and Investors (ANPIER) announced on Sept. 10 its full support for the findings of CNE’s new report, which criticizes the restrictive rules proposed by Spanish authorities for electrical power consumption and production by consumers who generate electricity themselves.

CNE, in its latest report, made public a day earlier, effectively sided with proponents of the small-scale photovoltaic market, which is seen as a critical niche for the continued development of the photovoltaic sector in Spain after new large-scale solar projects were stopped in their tracks by Spain’s moratorium on FiTs for such projects in early 2012.

The CNE warned of negative consequences stemming from the new government-proposed legislation for consumers who generate their own renewable energy and expressed concern over the haste and lack of transparency in the process. The regulator also warned Spain’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism (MINETUR), which submitted its draft Royal Decree law for review to CNE in July, that the urgent character of the approval process “failed to guarantee the effective participation of the different stakeholders involved.”

The CNE concluded that the proposed approval of a “backup toll” only for consumers who are able to generate power for self-consumption, is a discriminatory measure in relation to other consumers. Namely, other consumers would be able to avoid this toll by relying on other energy efficient measures for reducing their own consumption, such as insulating their houses or using more efficient lamp bulbs.

The regulator added “there is no evidence of a similar remuneration model, alike to the one reflected in the [ministry’s] proposal, in any jurisdiction of the European Union, nor in other countries with support systems that are in evidence via international associations of regulatory bodies.”

CNE also warned that the system proposed by MINETUR could result in negative remuneration values for investments “which can be considered incompatible with the design of a remuneration system that specifically aims to develop this type of production.”

ANPIER points out that the gravest aspect of the new situation is that Energy Minister José Manuel Soria, in his reactions to the CNE report, said he "would not pay any attention to the report of the National Energy Commission."

ANPIER President Miguel Ángel Martínez-Aroca concluded, "A government that legislates ‘manu militari’ [with a military hand] against what it preached during its 20 months in opposition, against the parliament structure, against the regulator of the sector, against the sector and against consumers, must come under suspicion."