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    Renewables pressure government to shoot green targets in the midst of energy crisis

    October 4, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras


      Solar energy is breaking records in Spain. After years of stagnation, the sector has settled into a constant and ever-increasing growth. Last year, 4,690 megawatts (MW) of new photovoltaic capacity were installed in Spain, a new all-time high, with strong increases both in ground-mounted solar plants (3,487 MW, 20% more than the previous year) and, above all, in self-consumption (1,203 MW, more than double).

      The forecast of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), the main employer of the sector, is that this year will again set a new record in both plant installations and self-consumption, despite the bottlenecks that the sector is encountering to get permits for new plants by the Government and the autonomous communities and to achieve access to plug into the grid.

      The photovoltaic employers' association wants to accelerate the expansion of solar energy and has already called on the government in the midst of the energy crisis to extend the deployment targets to 2030. The Executive is preparing an update of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), the roadmap for advancing the decarbonization process and which sets the objectives for the electricity generation mix until the end of the decade. The association has taken advantage of the public consultation process opened by the Ministry for Ecological Transition, led by Vice President Teresa Ribera, to present allegations and demand more ambition.

      UNEF is pressuring the government to raise the targets for the expansion of photovoltaic power in the Spanish market from the 39,000 MW proposed in the current version of the PNIEC to between 55,000 and 65,000 MW of new capacity by 2030, with increases of between 40% and 66% in relation to the current scenario, according to José Donoso, general manager of the photovoltaic employers' association. This new capacity will include 15,000 MW of self-consumption facilities, which until now have not been included in the government's plan.

      Reaching these new objectives proposed by UNEF would imply more than tripling the current installed capacity in Spain, where photovoltaic plants with a total capacity of 17,700 MW are in operation, according to the latest updated records of Red Eléctrica de España, the manager of the national electricity system. The business association advocates that the new roadmap should include a greater commitment to the electrification of the economy and, in parallel, more renewable sources to achieve this. "We have to go further. We have a sector that wants to invest more and a society that needs it," says Donoso. "There is no justification for not being more ambitious."

      The photovoltaic employers' association joins the claim of the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE) to raise the targets for wind power generation facilities. The wind power employers' association has also expressed in the allegations to the new PNIEC to increase from the 50,300 new MW now contemplated in the plan to a total of 63,000 additional MW, a 26% increase. AEE's request includes the addition of 3,000 MW of offshore wind, 9,500 MW of onshore wind dedicated to hydrogen production, 750 MW of additional onshore wind and a repowering of 15,000 MW of existing wind farms.

      Flood of applications

      The Government will review the terms of the current PNIEC, in line with European Union requirements, now that they have been overwhelmed by the flood of applications accumulating for new green energy plants. Compared to the 39,000 MW of new photovoltaic plants contemplated in the official plan, there are currently some 80,000 MW with administrative procedures already initiated and subject to public information. Specifically, there are plants with 2,800 MW already under construction, 7,100 MW that have the construction authorization, another 8,000 MW that already have the environmental impact statement and more than 62,000 MW that have activated the initial administrative processes .

      The administrations and the renewables sector itself are confident that a significant part of this flood of applications have no real project behind them and that the promoters will end up withdrawing the request or it will be denied. The big problem, the great luxury that the Spanish economy cannot afford in the midst of the energy transition, is that of the hundreds of projects that do have energy projects behind them and that are at risk of not going ahead due to the delay accumulated by the Administrations.

      According to UNEF estimates, 77 photovoltaic plants are under construction and 235 already have all the permits to start work. But 232 only have the environmental impact statement and another 1,185 plants (of which a large part will never go ahead because they do not have a real project behind them) are in the initial stages of processing. In practice, several hundred future facilities are in danger due to the administrative collapse.

      Collapse of the administration

      Last December, the Government approved an extension of the deadlines for renewable energy developers to obtain some of the intermediate permits (the environmental impact statement and the prior administrative authorization), preventing hundreds of projects from collapsing due to the delay of the administrations, and that the developers could lose the guarantees presented to obtain the licenses and the grid access permits obtained. With the new deadlines, most projects must have those permits by the end of this year or very early in 2023.

      The avalanche of renewable projects continues to be such that it has ended up collapsing the Administrations in charge of granting the permits and causing huge delays in the processing (the Ministry for Ecological Transition in the case of large projects of more than 50 MW and the autonomous communities for plants of lesser power). The delays threaten to push out projects that do have a real construction plan.


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