By Jason Deign in Barcelona

The latest twist in Spain’s ongoing energy soap opera has left the country’s CSP industry none the wiser about its future. But that is hardly surprising.

The Royal Decree rushed through at the end of last month was, after all, a knee-jerk reaction to a Supreme Court order requiring the government to cough up €3.1 billion in liabilities accumulated by the dysfunctional Spanish electricity system in 2011 and 2012.

Renewable energy sources, which the government had already smitten in a previous decree, were likely never going to form a major part of the solution to this latest financial pickle.

But administration actions nevertheless provide some potential insights into upcoming government policy as the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, headed by Canary Island-born José Manuel Soria, ponders a long-term fix.

Getting ratepayers to foot the €3.1 billion energy shortfall of the last two years would have meant a 37% hike in electricity bills. This was never an option, Soria said. Instead, the Ministry plumped for landing less than half of the cost, €1.4 billion, on consumers through a 7% rise.

The balance of €1.7 billion is to be achieved through system cost reductions such as shaving €688 million off the fees paid to utilities for energy distribution and reductions in the budgets of government bodies such as the National Energy Commission (Comisión Nacional de Energía).

On renewable energies, the official communication from the Ministry is perhaps deliberately woolly: “Its transposition has already been made, almost entirely, using the Law of Sustainable Economy and other regulatory provisions.

“This transposition enables to the Administration to implement the mechanisms for international cooperation for the implementation of the commitments of penetration of renewables referred to in the Directive.”

Significance for CSP

Does this have any new significance for CSP? “Not as far as I know,” comments Josefin Berg, IHS Emerging Energy Research’s solar analyst in Spain. “There is nothing specific to renewable energies.”

Luis Crespo Rodríguez, general secretary of the Spanish CSP industry association Protermosolar, adds that the outlook for the solar thermal sector remains very much as it was before the legislation: business as usual up until next year, and then no further action.

“The plants under construction are being built,” he says. “The horizon until 2013 is the same. In principle, none of the entries suffering cutbacks in the latest law relate to renewable energy.”

Regarding what happens after 2013, Crespo says: “We still know don’t know anything. This is not going to be the last package of measures. But we think that with this there will be a bit of a breathing space to analyse properly what can be done in the future.”

What happens during that breathing space will be critical for CSP in Spain.

The March legislation may have covered off the financial imbalance Spain’s new administration had inherited from the last two years, but Soria still has to deal with the structural problems that led to the imbalance in the first place. 

The Minister’s swift move to curtail new renewable energy generation from next year may originally have suggested he was going to adopt the pro-utility, anti-solar stance latterly employed by his predecessor, Miguel Sebastián Gascón.

But the way Soria has shared the pain with utilities in the latest decree suggests he is not picking favourites. Either way, Crespo expects the next package of legislation to come out within a couple of months.

And in a country where headlines are dominated by record unemployment figures and ever-worsening economic forecasts, it would be wise not to expect Soria to cut slack for anyone. 

To respond to this article, please write to:

Jason Deign:

Or write to the editor:

Rikki Stancich: