Spanish solar industry demands national referendum on energy policy

Spain’s National Association of Photovoltaic Energy Producers (ANPIER) is demanding that central authorities in Madrid hold a consultative national referendum about the chosen energy model for the country.

The association appealed to the Spanish government to abandon its current "neo-despotism" in the energy sector that has resulted in the unilateral imposition of an energy policy without social, political or territorial consensus.

Spain’s government last year approved measures to limit and tax solar power generation, including ending the country’s feed-in tariff program.

"Although Spain has the highest renewable potential in the EU and an obsolete nuclear infrastructure, the government proposes to extend the life of these [nuclear] installations, a move that will profit three private companies," said ANPIER on Jan. 27, adding that 81% of Spaniards are demanding a new energy model based on the use of renewable energies.

For example, electricity generated by Spain’s 460 MW nuclear plant Santa María de Garoña could be replaced with a total photovoltaic surface area equal to the size of Madrid’s Barajas airport, said the association. Such a large photovoltaic complex would create 2,146 new jobs and generate clean, safe and sustainable energy at a cost of around €50 ($67.56) per megawatt hour, while the price of nuclear energy tops €100 ($135) per megawatt hour if all nuclear generation costs are internalized.

ANPIER maintains that photovoltaic generation clearly has an advantage for Spain when [all] nuclear generation costs are factored in, including costs of disposing of radioactive waste for hundreds of years and construction of necessary civilian infrastructure to avoid nuclear catastrophes akin to the one in Fukushima, Japan.

In addition to insisting on a new green energy policy for today’s Spain, ANPIER also wants to the government to respect prior commitments made to 55,000 families that generate electricity via small photovoltaic systems. In order to meet this goal, ANPIER will help organize public demonstrations starting in March to put pressure on the government.

"These families invested their savings and mortgaged their homes for the development and production of photovoltaic solar energy that was promoted by the Spanish authorities who considered installation of renewable energy capacity to be essential and even appealed for this goal to be achieved through the savings of tens of thousands of Spanish families," the association argued in Jan. 24 statement.

ANPIER will hold the first three regional public gatherings in Murcia, Mérida and Pamplona starting next month. Similar demonstrations across other Spanish cities will ensue until the process culminates with a large mobilization in Madrid, tentatively scheduled for mid-May.

"Spain has abandoned its global leadership in renewable energy in exchange for the post of world leader in the number of litigation cases against the state. The biggest victims of this perverse change are the thousands of honest families who believed in legal security that our democratic framework seemed to guarantee,” said ANPIER President Miguel Ángel Martínez-Aroca.

According to electricity grid operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE), solar photovoltaic accounted for 3.1% of total energy demand in the country last year, with wind covering 20.9%, followed by nuclear power, which met 20.8%. of total demand.