Spain’s government moves to get public to install solar panels

Spain’s government adopted a series of measures on Tuesday aimed at encouraging the public to install solar panels to generate their own electricity as the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s Ukraine war grinds on.

Spain's government moves to get public to install solar panels
Spanish Environment and Energy Minister Teresa Ribera wants to encourage Spaniards to install solar panels at home. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

“There is a lot of interest” in the idea of a household generating its own energy, which is “a very reasonable way to reduce our bills,” Spain’s Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera said after the weekly cabinet meeting.

Individual energy generation could be encouraged by means of “a simplified form of regulation,” she said of measures which align with a European push to reduce the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas.

The move simplifies the process for installing solar panels with a power generation capacity of up to 500 kilowatt/hours and seeks to encourage the installation of photovoltaic panels on public buildings.

The Spanish government is also promising tax deductions for people who install solar panels, although it has not yet confirmed how much this will be.

READ ALSO: Do I need a permit to install solar panels in Spain?

It also seeks to drum up support for “collective power generation”, backing the installation of solar panels on apartment blocks in a country where nearly two-thirds of the population live in flats.

Self-generated electricity has been growing rapidly in Spain since 2018, when Madrid abolished a decree requiring individuals who feed energy back into the grid to pay tax.

The tariff had long been decried by its opponents as a “tax on the sun”.

According to Spanish solar power lobby UNEF, the installed capacity for individual energy generation through solar panels reached 1,203 megawatts in 2021, twice that of the 596 megawatts a year earlier.

And the figure is expected to be significantly higher in 2022.

The government’s energy-saving plan seeks to cut Spain’s natural gas consumption by up to 13.5% by March, and it also extends a price cap on gas used to produce electricity until December 2023 in order to alleviate household energy bills.

In April, Spain and Portugal reached an agreement with Brussels to separate electricity prices from the price of gas, allowing them to slash electricity prices.

Known as the “Iberian exception”, the price cap came into effect in June.

READ ALSO: What you should know before getting solar panels for your home in Spain

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‘It’s a joke’: Spain slams EU gas price cap

The Spanish government on Wednesday lambasted the European Commission's proposed price cap on wholesale natural gas, set so high that critics have questioned if it would ever be used.

'It's a joke': Spain slams EU gas price cap

The EU executive on Tuesday unveiled a gas “safety ceiling” of €275 per megawatt hour as the bloc grapples with high energy prices spurred by Moscow’s war in Ukraine and supply cuts.

But the conditions meant the cap would only kick in when EU gas prices breach that threshold for two weeks running, calculated on advance purchases through the bloc’s main gas price benchmark, TTF.

The cap was also contingent on the TTF price for liquefied natural gas – an easily transportable form of gas that can be shipped worldwide — exceeding €58 for 10 days within that same two-week period.

The only time the TTF gas price has gone above the €275 limit was between August 22nd and 29th this year.

It was running at around €120 in trading on Tuesday.

Spanish ecological transition minister Teresa Ribera called the commission’s proposal a “joke”, saying it would cause steeper price hikes and hamper efforts to tame decades-high inflation.

The French energy transition ministry criticised an “insufficient” scheme that “does not respond to the reality of the market”.

“The commission must propose an operational text, not simply a text that is political grandstanding and may have negative or no effects,” it said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has also expressed his opposition to the plan, with Ribera saying most EU members were against it as the bloc’s energy ministers prepare to meet on Thursday.

Spain could stop supporting other proposals on matters important to the commission if another “serious” text is not forthcoming, Ribera added.

A commission spokeswoman said the mechanism was designed “to anticipate and prevent this situation happening in the future”, but admitted even August’s price spike would not have triggered it.

The cap, if adopted, would come into force in January and came after months of wrangling between EU countries.

It runs alongside a plan by member states to voluntarily cut natural gas use by 15 percent over the northern hemisphere winter.