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'Let's tax the sun': new law shocks world press

Published: 21 Aug 2013 14:27 GMT+02:00

US business and finance magazine Forbes pulled no punches in an article titled, "Out of ideas and in debt, Spain sets sights on taxing the sun".

It pointed out that Spain "is one of the top countries in the world with respect to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity."

But the author took an incredulous tone and noted: "Spain is now attempting to scale back the use of solar panels – the use of which they have encouraged and subsidized over the last decade – by imposing a tax on those who use the panels."

She added: "You get the feeling that government officials were out of ideas, stared up at the sky one day and thought, 'I’ve got it! We’ll tax the sun!'"

Australia's Business Spectator published a story on the same subject on Wednesday under the headline, "Spain's solar stupidity".

It said: "Imposed by decree, the reform aims to raise money for tackling a €26 billion debt to power producers which the state has built up over the years in regulating energy costs and prices."

The article quoted Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria who introduced the law as saying, "I support 'autoconsumo' [independent power generation by households]... but the power system has infrastructure, grids that the rest of us Spaniards who are in the system have to pay for. And we pay for it through our electricity bill."

Both articles also quoted Teresa Ribera, who served as secretary of state for the environment under the former Socialist administration.

She responded to Soria's statement, saying: "It's like asking cyclists to pay a levy to keep open the petrol stations they don't use."

Now a senior adviser to the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), Ribera said the law was "illogical in terms of energy efficiency and costs" and "a serious invitation by the government for citizens to become anti-system."

Business Spectator interviewed people who plan to ignore the new law, including Sergio Pomar, chief executive of energy-efficient installation firm INEL.

He said: "If I spend €600 to install solar panels and get fined €6 million let the judge decide."

Private individuals who fail to hook their solar panels up to the national grid to be metered and taxed could face fines of up to €30 million ($40 million) under the new law.

Forbes magazine wrote: "It seems ludicrous."

Steve Tallantyre (news@thelocal.es)

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