The Spanish Government plans to hike the cost of generating electricity at home using renewable sources like solar power, in a move that will penalise many who live off the grid in rural Spain, like the famous author Chris Stewart.
Generating energy at home using renewable sources such as sun and wind thus doing your bit to save the environment is a good thing, right? Not according to the Spanish Government, which has just introduced a draft decree to penalise renewable energy generation at home through higher tariffs.
Under the draft decree, drawn up by the Ministry of Industry, energy generation at home will be hit by a new “support toll” (tarifa de respaldo) that will be 27pc higher than the tariff paid by users supplied by the big energy companies, according to calculations by the UNEF Spanish Photovoltaic Union – a trade body. Once introduced, the decree will allow the Government to raise the price of this toll as it sees fit.
UNEF are unequivocal about what this means. “Far from encourage the use of renewable energies, [the decree] proposes conditions that totally discourage their adoption,” says their press release. “Home generation will be more expensive than conventional supply…..this will impede the development of a practise of saving and energy efficiency that is very beneficial for consumers and the country in general.”
UNEF also make the point that imposing a higher tariff on home generation is as absurd as trying to tax people for lighting a fire and turning off the radiators at home. In both cases people are generating energy at home to substitute electricity from the grid.
Protecting the industry (from competition)
The Government argues it needs to control the growth of renewables at home to protect the energy industry as it goes through a “complicated economic situation.” The electricity companies will be delighted to see off competition from home generation.
Spain is a country with abundant sunshine where solar power generation at home has exploded in the last 5 years, as the price of solar panels tumbled by 80pc, and the crisis encouraged households to seek ways of saving money.
Higher tariffs are obviously bad news for rural homeowners who are off the grid and have no alternative to renewable energy at home. 30,000 households with solar panels will see their bills go up, according to press reports.
Higher tariffs are also bad for the environment, and won’t do anything to help sell homes in rural Spain, where environmentalists like the famous author Chris Stewart (pictured above at his organic farm in the Alpujarras) live. The green lifestyle is part of the attraction for many Northern Europeans buying homes in rural Spain.
“I am appalled by the cynicism, hypocrisy and downright dishonesty of this act by the government, but I have lost the capacity to be surprised by them,” Stewart told me when I asked him about this draft decree.
Once the decree is passed, companies and households that generate their own energy from renewable sources will have two months to register and start paying the new toll, or face fines of up to €30 million, and being cut off the grid. Being cut off won’t bother people like Stewart, but the fines, and principle of it will.
In other European countries like Holland and Germany, solar panels are subsidised and households can sell their energy back to the grid. The EU policy towards renewables is generally in favour of encouraging them.
So solar power at home is encouraged in overcast Germany and Holland, but discouraged in sunny Spain. Makes perfect sense.