$8 billion hit for Spanish PV generators

By 2020, PV generators in Spain are set to have lost out on more than €5.8 billion (US$7.8 billion) in payments thanks to retroactive measures imposed by the government in Madrid, according to the country’s PV industry body.

The annual report of the Unión Española Fotovoltaica (UNEF), says PV generators will lose 20 per cent of the payments they could have anticipated from 2010 to 2020 after successive changes to the regulatory framework.

"Undoubtedly, PV is the energy generation technology that has suffered the most punishment in the process of power sector reform," said UNEF president Jorge Barredo. "A succession of harmful and retroactive measures have pushed the industry to the brink, into a situation in which virtually no activity is occurring normally any longer and in which job lay-offs, bankruptcy proceedings and the closure of firms are the order of the day."

Generators received €3.01 billion in payments last year, including €2.15 billion from the premium component of Royal Decree (RD) 661/2007 and €468 million from RD 1578/2008.

That figure had risen from €2.66 billion in 2011 with compensation levels relatively stable despite time constraints introduced by RD 14/2010 in 2010 which dictated that after a certain number of hours of annual generation – determined by location and type of plant – generators could only claim the market rate for electricity.

UNEF’s Barredo says it is the blanket freeze on premiums for new-build projects, imposed by the government last year, that will have the most dramatic effect on payments to PV generators.

"The open-ended moratorium on the premium regime announced in 2012 effectively stopped all activities at companies that revolve around construction of new solar plants – installers, engineering companies, [equipment] distributors etc,” Barredo added.

Just 277 MW of new PV in 2012

Spanish PV developers added just 277 MW of new capacity in 2012, down from 410 MW in 2011, 427 MW in 2010 and the 2,7 GW installed in the boom year of 2008.?

The PV sector in Spain boasted more than 12,000 employees in 2011, but has now dropped to 7,500, the vast majority of whom are employed in operation and maintenance tasks or supporting overseas activity.

Two years ago there were more than 50 companies with factories in Spain producing solar grade silicon, wafers, cells, modules, inverters and trackers but UNEF’s 80-page Towards New Models for Photovoltaic Solar Development report says 90% of module and component manufacturers have closed or are involved in bankruptcy proceedings or labor adjustment.?

Spain had more than 4.5 GW of PV capacity connected to the grid at the end of last year – 4% of the installed generation capacity in the country – and PV power met 3% of electric demand.

The retreat of the industry in the face of austerity-driven government assaults on the subsidy regime is such that solar parks installed before 2009 now represent 74% of the nation’s installed PV capacity.?

Regionally, Castilla-La Mancha had the largest installed capacity – 905 MW – at the end of the year with Andalusia (838 MW) second, Extremadura (540 MW) third and Castilla y Leon (484 MW) fourth. Murcia, one of Spain’s smallest regions, was fifth, with 423 MW.

?Last year developers installed 49 MW of PV capacity in Andalusia, 38 MW in Valencia and 30 MW in Castilla y Leon.