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    Ribera accuses large electric utilities of hindering their rivals in the self-consumption boom

    June 8, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      Spain is experiencing a historic boom in electric self-consumption . The expansion of new plants set records last year due to the rise in electricity prices in the midst of the energy crisis and thanks to direct aid financed by European funds. The massive deployment is causing some bottlenecks that, according to the sector, are an obstacle to even greater growth.

      On the one hand, bureaucratic bottlenecks to obtain all the administrative permits and access the public aid of the Recovery Plan for self-consumption. On the other hand, bottlenecks to connect to the electricity grid so that the new plants can generate energy and obtain income from it.

      The vice-president and minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, has taken advantage of the opening of the III Self-consumption Summit organized by the photovoltaic employers UNEF precisely to charge the inks against the distribution companies for allegedly putting obstacles for new self-consumption plants to connect to the grid.

      "We must go beyond the challenges of processing in the Public Administrations, and from here I call on distributors to take seriously this service function of connecting all self-consumption, not only when the promoters of these facilities are their companies," denounced Ribera, who said he understood the "indignation" and "concern" of companies in the sector on this issue.

      Problems to connect to the grid

      Self-consumption plants with a power of more than 15 kilowatts (kw) are already obliged to ask permission from the managers of the distribution networks - the large electricity groups such as Endesa, Iberdrola or Naturgy - to be able to connect and thus discharge the surplus electricity and be compensated for it.

      The renewable sector has been criticizing the long waits to gain access to the distribution network. In fact, the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) has opened initial proceedings to ensure that there are no intentional obstacles to access to the network for self-consumption, according to El Confidencial.

      Ribera has suggested that the large distributors could be favoring their own renewable subsidiaries and specifically self-consumption by giving them priority in the connection to the grid, and has stressed that these practices are a "burden" to promote even greater growth of self-consumption in Spain.

      At the same time, the Vice-President also questioned whether the distributors are correctly managing the requests to connect to the high voltage grid - managed by Red Eléctrica de España - and the 10% access capacity reserved by law for self-consumption in the transmission grid nodes.

      Unused electricity

      A record 2022 ended with self-consumption doubling in size in the country, both in number of installations (to over 298,000 homes and 54,000 companies with solar panels) and in accumulated power (with 2,650 new megawatts). But in the midst of the boom, the sector is warning of some major shortcomings in the industry and warns that legal restrictions and current technical limitations are causing losses in the millions and causing a large amount of cheap energy to be wasted in the midst of the energy crisis.

      In addition to producing electricity to cover part of the consumption of the home or business, these installations can also inject part of their production into the grid and earn extra income in return. But the problems of feeding energy into the grid have generated a hole that has already exceeded 300 million euros in recent years. In practice, electricity is being thrown away and is not being used to cover part of the demand of the Spanish electricity system.

      Last year, all the self-consumption facilities in operation in the country produced a total of 4,564 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, almost 52% more than the previous year and the equivalent of 1.8% of Spain's total electricity demand during the year, according to data from Red Eléctrica. The APPA Renovables association denounces that active self-consumption facilities wasted a fifth of their generation potential, and it is estimated that up to 1,067 GWh of production were lost last year. And that in the year when the worst of the energy crisis was being experienced.

      Some 19% of all possible production from these plants ended up being wasted, according to the companies, due to regulatory barriers that impose difficulties to feed this electricity into the grid, due to the obstacles that many self-consumers encounter from the distributors themselves to obtain permission to inject their energy into the grid, and due to some legal obstacles for large installations to be compensated for their surplus electricity.

      According to APPA calculations, the Spanish electricity system wasted renewable energy last year for a value equivalent to 160 million euros due to the impossibility of evacuating this energy in the electricity grids and accumulates a broken of 274 million euros since 2015, to which must be added the accumulated blow so far this year, to far exceed 300 million euros already.


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