The development of self-consumption requires agility in procedures

The numbers leave no room for doubt.

19 December 2022 Monday 14:34
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The development of self-consumption requires agility in procedures

The numbers leave no room for doubt. The change to energy self-consumption based on renewable energy is profitable. The investment derived from the installation of photovoltaic panels is compensated in a few years thanks to the savings in the energy bill. In addition, the existence of significant public aid, especially from European Next Generation funds, makes the transition to a new model even more attractive for individuals and companies and is contributing to the accelerated development of an economic sector that until recently was almost irrelevant.

Spain can boast today of being one of the world leaders in the promotion of renewable energies. A road covered in a very short time and that opens up a range of possibilities for the economic development of the country. But the speed of change also generates some imbalances and tensions that must be addressed in order to take advantage of a unique opportunity. The possibility of having clean and cheap energy is great news for the pocket of citizens, but it is also a weighty argument to attract investment and favor the desired reindustrialization of the country.

To better understand how this process is evolving and what challenges it faces, Diálogos en La Vanguardia brought together different actors and experts involved in the energy paradigm shift from different perspectives. The session, which took place at the headquarters of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, included the participation of Joan Groizard, general director of the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE); Rafael Reyes, CEO of Solideo Eco Systems; Joan Herrera, director of Energy and Environment of the City Council of El Prat de Llobregat; Francesc Mauri, meteorologist, and Margarita Cerrón, who provided her point of view as president of a community of owners that leads the installation of photovoltaic panels in their building.

To understand the moment of effervescence that the renewable energy sector is experiencing in Spain, it is inevitable to bear in mind the political decisions that have been made in recent years. Joan Groizard highlighted that "in the last legislature we have not only caught up with the energy transition process, but we have managed to put ourselves at the head of the European Union". As proof of this, "we are once again one of the most attractive countries in the world to invest in renewable energy," said the head of the IDAE.

Beyond political will, the truth is that Spain has a series of natural factors that favor this leadership. The most important, without a doubt, is the geographical factor that favors the capture of energy from the sun and also from the wind. Groizard highlighted that, in addition to the good natural conditions, "we have a whole renewable value chain that supports this development and provides us with a certain advantage."

One of the first decisions of Teresa Ribera, Vice President of the Government and Minister of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, was to repeal the so-called sun tax that jeopardized the development of the renewable energy sector. The IDAE director explained that after that decision "we created a completely different regulatory framework to bet decisively on self-consumption." According to Groizard, "we are going to end 2022 with 10 times more self-consumption than at the beginning of the legislature and the growth rate is multiplied by two each year."

However, the development of the sector runs into some problems derived, at least in part, from such a high rate of growth. Rafael Reyes, CEO of Solideo explains that "there is a lack of photovoltaic panel installers to be able to cover the demand, but there is not even a collective agreement for the sector and there is no regulated training." Although the lack of professionals is not the main handicap faced by companies since they have sought solutions. To address this situation, "we have created the Solideo Academy and invest in training our installers in accordance with our quality criteria," said the head of this engineering company. Better wages and better working conditions are encouraging many hospitality workers, for example, to change their professional activity.

For Reyes, other problems are more relevant, such as "the general ignorance of the population about self-consumption solutions." Something that seems logical if we take into account that they have been making themselves known for three years, and that "in the case of photovoltaic panels, they are being promoted by all kinds of non-specialized companies such as banks, electricity or oil companies", clarified the person in charge of Skullcap. He transfers the idea that all systems are the same and it is not so. "There are companies that we want to do well and others for which this is simply a boom," said Reyes, who lamented the reputation and image problems for the sector "that is generating intrusion and subcontracting without criteria."

Joan Herrera, for his part, emphasized that the energy transition model means "more energy, cheaper, renewable and much of it unmanageable". In the opinion of this expert "we need to go to a model in which we adapt demand to management and not the other way around as is the case now." The auction system used to set the price of the kilowatt "has consolidated a powerful renewable development." And that is already the case in Spain. "But the challenge is now in the development of shared self-consumption, because it allows for the generation of proximity and greater awareness around electricity." For Herrera, "the key is no longer in the extension of self-consumption, but in an agile processing, which is not happening in shared self-consumption," he concluded.

To achieve the desired growth in self-consumption, Herrera considered it crucial to improve the energy literacy process, which is based on "knowing what it costs to produce a kilowatt/hour, something you know if you have photovoltaic panels at home." The leader of El Prat's energy policy considers that to consume less energy "you have to know what it costs to produce it".

The price of energy is the main engine that, in practice, has generated the interest of citizens and companies for self-consumption. Despite the fact that there is greater environmental awareness, Francesc Mauri affirmed that “very few people hold the green flag”. For the meteorologist "in the end what has woken us up is the pocket, the economy, as always."

The truth is that the climate emergency and its link to the use of fossil fuels is a scientifically demonstrable fact and a solid argument to bet on renewable energies. Although Mauri said that he does not agree with the statement that the planet is in trouble, because "the ones who have a problem are us, humanity." The expert confirmed that “if we destroy the planet, in a million years the Earth will be different, but it will exist; Those of us who will no longer be will be human beings”. Climate change "has never been as fast as it is now and that is what makes it truly unique," said the expert as an argument against the deniers. If we do not stop this process, "changes will occur that at some point can be really disastrous," lamented Mauri.

Margarita Cerrón elaborated on the importance of the economic argument. “In my community we had already considered installing panels years ago, but with the tax on the sun and the difficulties that existed then we did not reach a consensus and we gave up,” she explained. The situation changed with the new legal framework and with the increase in the price of energy and "this time 10 of the 16 residents of the building have decided to switch to self-consumption". However, the process is not being easy. First, Cerrón studied the different technologies of solar panels that exist "and we decided to entrust the installation to a specialized company, which was what offered us the most guarantees."

Despite the fact that "the installer manages the application for aid, the truth is that there are procedures that we must complete directly and it is a hellish process," lamented Cerrón. Although the president is confident that her community will end up receiving public funds to lower the costs of the installation, "we don't know if we are going to receive it or not." In any case, "what people like is that the energy that we are going to generate is for us and that we will see the return on investment in the form of savings on the electricity bill." Another thing is "the derisory price that they will end up paying us for our surplus," lamented the president.

Joan Groizard assured that "the bulk of the aid for the energy transition is aimed at self-consumption facilities, energy rehabilitation of homes and the acquisition of electric vehicles". Despite the fact that there has been a great demand for this aid, the politician insisted that "there is still a budget for this type of project" and encouraged those interested to request the funds.

Regarding a hypothetical involution that would dismantle the favorable conditions for the development of energy self-consumption, Groizard expressed his confidence that history will not repeat itself as it happened with the tax on the sun. The politician recalled that the European directives of 2018 and 2019 consider self-consumption as a right. "You would have to be very irresponsible to go against this," he concluded. In any case, the head of the IDAE stressed that even without receiving public aid "the numbers come out for those who bet on self-consumption through renewables." Groizard affirmed that "we are possibly in the last stages of this type of aid, since in a few years the economic reality itself will facilitate decision-making."

In this sense, Reyes highlighted that indeed, with or without aid, "investment in renewables, at 10 years, has a double-digit internal rate of return (IRR). The businessman wondered: "What financial product offers a similar IRR today?" In his opinion, "more important than the aid are the administrative obstacles that we encounter and that are many." The first one has to do with the lack of homogenization in the application for permits and licenses that "are different in each municipality and that generates chaos in the management of the facilities." Reyes assured that "common sense and knowledge are lacking."

In this line, the Solideo manager highlighted "the obstacles that we find in shared self-consumption". In these cases, there are desperate delays when applying the compensations, solving the coefficients and "there are many inconsistencies that sometimes lead you to a loop from which you don't know how to get out". Reyes stated that "what we need from the Administration, more than help, is to make it easy and not add absurd obstacles to self-consumption." That way, things would move faster.

Joan Herrera introduced another relevant aspect in the future development of renewables than the development of energy communities and the city-territory pact, since it is in urban areas where the most energy is consumed and, although in small percentages, the installation of wind mills or of large solar farms "will cause an impact on the landscape, which is already going to change as a result of climate change." The expert considers that this agreement can generate returns to the territories "that respond to the challenge of emptied Spain, which is one of the problems that this country has." Herrera added that "a regulatory framework is necessary that favors energy communities as a channel for the development of renewables."

In a reassuring message, Joan Groizard stated that "the energy transition, even reaching 100% of the objectives, is not going to burden the countryside, nor the natural spaces of this country."

For his part, Francesc Mauri highlighted that there are areas of the country such as "the axis of the Ebro from Navarra to La Rioja or the Pla de Lleida where the temperature will increase a lot in the coming years making crops unfeasible." In this sense, the meteorologist pointed out a possible solution to this problem through "the installation of solar panels at a height of 4-5 meters, as is already done in France, which provide shade, protect crops from hail and allow the agricultural machinery works normally”. Imagination to power.



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