The Government has stepped on the accelerator for the development of renewable energies in Spain. Over the last four months, the department headed by Teresa Ribera has carried out the processing of environmental impact statements for more than 14,800 MW, which means saving more than 15,000 million of investment in Spain.
The Executive assures that it has thus completed all the permits it had pending before February 25, when Red Eléctrica will proceed to withdraw the authorizations to those promoters who do not have all the papers in order.
According to the Ministry, a total of 192 files have been processed, of which 170 have been favorable (more than 100 in the last four months), 22 have been negative, 8 have been filed and 1 has been rejected by the developer himself.
In just one four-month period, from October 2022 to January 2023, Ribera's department has practically broken a record in the number of authorizations published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), as well as the autonomous communities in their respective bulletins, but even so, problems persist in some regions such as Catalonia or the Valencian Community.
Galicia, on the other hand, another of the communities that had a significant delay, has obtained 120 of the 140 permits it had. Specifically, 77 have been favorable and another 43 have been rejected, which is the biggest problem for the promoters, who will have to start again from the beginning but will be able to recover their guarantees.
The Executive, as well as the autonomous governments, intended to avoid the possible lawsuits for damages that could occur on the part of the companies if, finally, Red Eléctrica decides to execute the guarantees presented and have accelerated the permits. Some autonomous regions, as is the case of Andalusia, have even created specific units to deal with this situation or have even hired external consultants to speed up the process.
Today is the end of the legal deadline for companies to process the relevant authorizations and to be able to maintain their network access permits.
By the end of 2021, around 60,000 MW of renewable projects were at risk of losing their grid access permits if the government did not provide a solution to the existing administrative problems.
At that time, of the nearly 40,000 MW of wind power with a connection point granted, around 50% -20,000 MW- were at risk of losing it between December and April. Likewise, in the case of photovoltaic energy, of the nearly 100,000 MW that had been granted, 40% could expire in this same period, i.e. around 40,000 MW.
Thus, of the 140,000 MW of renewable energy that should have the Environmental Impact Statement, some 60,000 MW had not even begun the public information process (the step prior to obtaining the EIS, the second milestone). In accordance with Royal Decree-Law 23/2020, of June 23, the access permits granted since the entry into force of the Electricity Sector Law (December 28, 2013) and before the entry into force of the Royal Decree-Law (June 25, 2020) expired after five years (from the entry into force of Royal Decree-Law 23/2020) if the final administrative authorization for operation (commissioning of the project) was not obtained.
In view of this situation, the Government decided to grant an extension that meant granting nine more months to carry out the processing of these projects.
Once these deadlines had elapsed -the first milestone took place last September- and the second and most important one takes place today, the Government was determined to leave the promoters without permits and to execute the guarantees.
The Government's intention was to clean up the access capacity to avoid the existing speculation in these supply points that were even paid over 200,000 euros/MWh.
The problem arose due to the administration's lack of resources to be able to deal with the avalanche of projects on the table. According to sources in the know, the autonomous communities and the central government were unable to respond in time to the EISs, the prior administrative authorizations or the construction authorizations, which ended up delaying the renewable energy projects to a great extent.
According to data provided by the sector associations UNEF and AEE, last December there were projects pending processing that totaled around 80,000 megawatts (60,000 solar photovoltaic and 19,000 wind), but which will now be practically resolved.
In any case, the Government has given itself a month's margin to finish processing these permits.
The Executive is willing to give the autonomous communities a longer term to accelerate the granting of authorizations to the plants that have managed to submit the documentation in time and form and that would be susceptible to open a wave of lawsuits for property damage if they end up losing the rights to the access point.
To achieve this, according to sources consulted, the Ministry will take advantage of Article 39.3 of the Administrative Procedure Law to exceptionally facilitate a retroactive approval.
What does this mean? The environmental impact statements that are notified during the month of February and take effect on or before January 25 will prevent the nullity of the access and connection permit granted from being declared null and void. In this way, the regional administrations have almost one more month to make progress in the pending cases.
Red Eléctrica will now have until February 25 to be able to evaluate the expiring access permits and it is expected that a considerable amount can be reduced and leave free capacity for future auctions of access and connection points.
Capital Energy leads
According to the data published over the last four months in the Official State Gazette, Capital Energy is the company that has obtained the most permits in the last four months, with a total of 11.
It is followed by the energy company presided over by Sánchez Galán, with a total of nine projects unblocked. Although the number of installations is lower than that of its competitor, Iberdrola has managed to unblock the most megawatts, with a total of 1,878.79 MW distributed among photovoltaic and hybridization parks.
Endesa is not far behind either, closing the 'top 3' with a total of seven renewable projects unlocked, equivalent to a total capacity of 1,145 MW of photovoltaic solar energy.
Forestalia and Elawan tie for fourth place with a total of four projects each. In the case of the former, it has managed to bring forward 1,214.75 MW of wind, photovoltaic and hybridization projects. In the case of the latter, Elawan has managed to unblock a total of 342 megawatts.
The acceleration of authorizations will allow Spain to maintain a broad portfolio of renewable projects for their upcoming construction. Our country is currently failing to meet the targets set out in the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan and to shelve a significant number of projects that have been in the pipeline for years would be a blow to the waterline of the energy transition and the loss of a huge amount of investment.
Ecological Transition will have to present the result of the first review of the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan to the European Commission on March 15, and subsequently the revision of the plan in which it is intended to extend the installation objectives.