Spanish solar tax threatens community power

31 July 2013

 Friends of the Earth Spain accused the Spanish government today of putting the profits of power companies ahead of public and environmental interests.

The Spanish government’s recent energy reform bill includes the introduction of a fee for electricity generated from solar panels or other renewable sources. This fee will triple the projected payback period for independent and small-scale solar generation, effectively obstructing the development of small-scale, community-owned renewable projects.

The Spanish power sector is dominated by the five large power companies Iberdrola, Endesa Gas natural, Fenosa, EDP-Hidrocantábrico and E.On, and is far from transparent, according to the organisation.

Hector de Prado, Climate and Energy Campaigner from Amigos de la Tierra believes the reforms will only exacerbate problems “These reforms mean Spain will continue to import and burn fossil fuels, which is environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable. It will increase the national contribution to global climate change and destroy tens of thousands of green jobs, whilst cementing corporate control over our power sector.”

Separate protests outside a jail in Barcelona saw solar workers and advocates saying they would declare themselves guilty of “using photovoltaics for saving electricity generation made from dirty fossil fuels and nuclear energy”.  The renewables’ supporters were also outraged at the policy shift which would make it illegal to consumer solar power not generated by the country’s dominant energy firms, punishable by fines of up to €30 million.

Rejecting a clean energy future

Measures like this show the Spanish government has fallen out of step with the global movement towards a clean energy future, according to the organisation, and will reduce incentives to save energy. The annual cost of access to the electricity network will rise by 77% whereas the price per unit of electricity will fall by 22%, meaning homes with low or moderate consumption levels will see a significant increase in their bills.

In countries across Europe people are working hard to be part of an energy transformation where communities own and run their own sources of energy. Governments should help this movement not penalise it. Friends of the Earth Spain believe that the changes to the rules on investment will lead to national and international court cases against the government, which could eventually cost more than any savings.

The manner in which the bill has been introduced has also attracted controversy.  The government have allowed only the minimum time possible for public consultation – 10 days.  The group believes that this is expressly intended to avoid any public discussion and participation by civil society, and stands in stark contrast to the government’s continuous dialogue with the major electric utilities throughout the process.

Hector de Prado concluded: “Renewable energy is not the cause of the power sector’s problems, but the solution. Renewables and energy savings will make Spain internationally competitive, create jobs and help reduce the country’s environmental impact. This package consolidates the power of the big five companies and discourages the growth of community-owned renewables.