Spain: Solar generates 6.8% of summer energy mix, 'sun tax' fears remain

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According to the latest statistics published by Spain’s electricity grid operator, Red Eléctrica de España (REE), solar PV electricity generation in June, July and August provided 3.87% of the Spanish peninsula’s power generation mix.

If you add the 2.9% contributed to the energy mix by the solar thermal installations, mainland Spain covered 6.77% of its power needs in the summer from the sun. This is down 1.46% on last year’s summer statistics when the solar technologies had jointly generated 8.23% of the peninsula’s electrical energy.

A bit more positive is the fact that in the first eight months of the year, gross demand in Spain reached 167,837 GWh, a figure 3.3% higher than in the same period in 2014. “After having factored in the influence of the seasonal and working patterns, electrical energy demand was 1.3% higher than that registered in the same period last year,” REE added.

Excess capacity together with depressed demand ranks at the top of Spain’s energy sector troubles, including the solar PV sector.

Meanwhile, Spain’s electricity generation from January to August consisted of 21.6% nuclear power, 19.6% wind power, 19.1% coal, 12.3% hydro, 10.1% co-generation technologies, 9.7% combined cycle gas, 3.3% solar PV, 2.5% solar thermal and 1.8% other thermal renewable technologies.

The "sun tax"

The Spanish PV sector’s top summer concern, however, remains the proposed "sun tax" relating to the regulation of the self-consumption systems. The government has published a draft self-consumption law according to which solar PV system owners will be taxed for the power they produce, even if it is solely for their own use and not fed into the grid. Spain’s PV sector calls it the "sun tax.”

The Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF) told pv magazine that the draft self-consumption law is currently under consideration by the Spanish Council of State and that Spain’s opposition parties have signed a declaration saying that if the government publishes the law with the sun tax provision, they will repeal it if and when it is their turn to govern. All of Spain’s main photovoltaic associations, trade unions and non-governmental organizations have also signed this document, said UNEF.

According to the draft law, UNEF added, some small sized domestic PV projects under 10 kW for specific areas (e.g. the Balearic Islands) will be exempted but only for a temporary period.

You can’t stop the future

“It is clear the energy policy of the conservative party currently ruling the country does not want to encourage distributed generation, net metering or self-consumption schemes," José Donoso, UNEF’s general director, told pv magazine. "Instead, it clearly supports the energy model of the last century where few, very powerful utilities dominate the electricity market. The Spanish government does not want more actors participating in the electricity market.”

Spain’s domestic PV sector is now waiting for the results of the general election to be held in December and most vitally for the energy policy of the new government. Nevertheless, Donoso said, “all efforts to stop the future will eventually fail.”

Technology changes rapidly and the change it brings comes from the bottom-up, Donoso added. What UNEF is worried about is “Spain loosing the opportunity to embrace the distributed energy revolution we see unfolding in other European countries, and therefore the domestic PV sector also missing the opportunity to develop the skills and the know-how to manage the new energy systems.”

The abolition of Spain’s feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme in 2013 and a new way to calculate the income for solar PV projects introduced last year has frozen the installation activity in Spain and, as a result, the idle Spanish solar PV sector had invested a lot of hope in the self-consumption regulations.