Interview: Solar DG will keep growing in Spain, but clear rules are needed

pv magazine: Mr. Donoso, Spain added 135 MW of new PV capacity last year, a result which was achieved mainly thanks to distributed generation. How do you judge this performance?

Donoso: it was undoubtedly a good result, if we consider that solar DG is currently facing two main barriers, the notorious solar tax (impuesto al sol), and the administrative burden that project developers must take into account when they have to deal with Spanish distributors.

Is there hope these two barriers will be removed?

As for the first one, the solar tax, I doubt there will be changes in the near future, but for the simplification of the administrative procedures, I hope the government will soon issue a new decree that is expected to bring more clarity. We set up a working group on the matter a year ago, and we then submitted our proposal to the Spanish government, but so far the related decree has not been issued and we don’t know when it may be announced.

What did the association ask in the proposal?

We simply asked that power distributors comply with the current rules. These, however, are currently written in a way that leaves room for interpretation, and the Government does not demonstrate an active interest to solve these problems. The problem is that every power distributor has its own procedure for the connection of solar power generators. We have proposed some guidelines that are planned to bring more clarity and to eliminate the possibility of different interpretations of the regulation.

Would clearer rules really boost the market?

I am quite sure there will be stronger development. There’s also another issue, however, which is hindering solar DG. It is the obligation for PV system owners to install the meter at a point along the borders of its property, the so-called “point of connection”, to enable employees of the power distributors to have autonomous and constant access to the meter. This increases considerably the costs of a project and, in many cases, the costs for these kinds of works may be even higher then those of buying and installing a PV system.

How was last year’s growth possible with all these obstacles?

Mostly thanks to a constant reduction in PV system prices, which was able to off-set the economic disadvantages caused by the three afore-mentioned barriers.

How much did PV system prices drop last year in Spain?

I would say between 10% and 20%, depending on the PV system characteristics. But the increase of awareness of the advantages of solar DG among private citizens and enterprises is also playing an important role. Several important retailers are now considering solar as an option to reduce their electricity bills in Spain, and we are working to put them in contact with our members.

Is distributed generation moving forward in all segments?

Especially the commercial and industrial segments are performing well, while for residential PV, the current regulation does not provide a favorable framework to invest in these installations.

Do you believe the development of solar DG will be stronger in 2018?

I really hope so. A big push may also come for collective PV projects for self-consumption. The Spanish Constitutional Court said last year that the government cannot forbid these kinds of projects, but the government must now issue the technical rules to make them really doable, something that we are asking to be done as soon as possible.

Are we authorized to say that there is a rebirth of solar energy in Spain?

Yes, absolutely. We don’t have to forget that there were big auctions last year, and that the private PPA market is also moving forward. I do not exclude that Spain will become Europe’s largest solar market again over the next years.