Spain: Urgent Measures for the Energy Transition and Protection of Consumers

19 March 2019 - Andoni Archanco

On 7 October 2018, the Royal Decree-Law 15/2018 entered into force in Spain for urgent measures for the energy transition and the protection of consumers.

Among the measures that this new regulation includes, we analyse below those intended to accelerate the energy transition to a clean economy and that have been designed to give visibility, stability and confidence to investors:

  1. Shared home consumption
  2. Simplification of administrative and technical steps
  3. Elimination of all maintenance charges or tolls (so-called “sun tax”)

The previous prohibition that a single photovoltaic installation could be used by several residents living near one another prevented this clean energy from establishing itself in Spain given that 66% of Spaniards live in blocks of flats. This meant that the photovoltaic installations in Spain belong to merely 1,000 consumers instead of the more than 1,000,000 in Germany.

The new regulation includes recognition of the right to shared home consumption which was already established by the ruling of 2 June 2017 of the Constitutional Court. The new regulation adds several new elements such as the possibility of the plant being outside the building, the possibility of connection among consumers located in different buildings or the possibility of supply for home consumption with surplus. That is, in addition to allowing the supply of energy for home consumption, it would feed extra energy into the electricity network by way of its sale. The figure of the “pro-sumer” (consumer + producer) then arises: the consumer that can also be a producer of energy from a photovoltaic source.

On the other hand, the obligation to obtain administrative authorisations for access and connection has been eliminated in cases of photovoltaic installations of equal to or less than 15 kW power on developed land and energy supply installations without a surplus. The latter refers to consumption without production and subsequent sale of the extra energy whatever its power may be. There is also no longer the obligation to register the plant at the Home Consumption Registry (Registro de Autoconsumo).

Finally, the so-called “sun tax” has been eliminated. This was a maintenance charge or toll imposed in 2015 (Royal Decree 900/2015) which taxed the connection to the electricity network by non-100% independent photovoltaic installations. These installations remain connected to ensure that the energy supply is not interrupted due to technical issues, but do not effectively use the electricity network. This tax burden made this type of energy unprofitable for the home consumer, discouraging investment.

In conclusion, this new regulation of Royal Decree 15/2018 presents considerable flexibility to communities of residents thinking of installing this type of source of clean energy, where it could also be profitable. This means that the landscape of Spanish cities will change in the next several years, where this type of plant arises not only on the roofs of buildings but also with shared installations, even as part of the local infrastructure equipment.

Finally, it must be noted that this new regulation obeys the obligation of the member states of the European Union to develop their regulatory framework for the energy transition and climate change under the European regulation of the so-called “Winter Package.” This package was promoted by the European Commission in December 2018 after the climate change summit in Paris of the United Nations in 2015.

More information: Andoni Archanco