Spain’s sun becomes an economic factor | Economy | DW

Everyone who traveled in Spain was surprised that not all roofs were covered with solar cells. The country offers 3,000 hours of sunshine a year – Germany only has 1,600. Málaga, Murcia and Alicante are among the eleven Spanish cities with the most sunlight in Europe, according to a study by the Spanish solar lobby Union Española Fotovoltaica (UNEF) shows.

So far, energy and water in Spain have been cheap compared to other European countries. Therefore the air conditioning was fully turned on in summer and heating in winter. In agriculture, it was generously irrigated. The architect and environmental activist Iñaki Alonso has always been worried about the low environmental awareness of his countrymen. The 51-year-old has been following the developments in Germany with interest for decades: “I was fascinated by the concept of a self-powered passive house.”

The solar PV industry in Spain currently employs around 60,000 people. According to UNEF, it currently accounts for 28 percent. installed capacity, but covers only eight percent. electricity consumption.

A dream house, a passive house

When Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez introduced the so-called solar tax (impuesto al sol) as the first official act and introduced the solar roof regulation in 2019, Iñaki Alonso and like-minded friends decided to make his dream come true: the so-called Entrepatia (between courtyards) – wooden passive house with 17 apartments.

 Inaki Alonso in Madrid

Inaki Alonso in Madrid

It was built on a plot of land in the Usera working-class and immigrant district of Madrid. The building has been connected to the grid as a power generator since 2021: “It went fast, even though we were the first residential building of this type in Madrid.” This also has to do with the fact that although there are fewer PV roofs in Spain compared to Germany, the construction industry still has contacts with suppliers and installers from the solar boom 15 years ago. Not all of them exist yet, because many companies, including German ones, have gone bankrupt as a result of radical suppression of subsidies and the introduction of a tax on the installation of self-sufficiency systems.

 Top view of Entrepatios Madrid

Top view of Entrepatios Madrid

Spain surprises with speed

Now that household electricity bills have doubled compared to summer 2020, the market is booming like no other country in the EU. The Spanish Energy Institute expects that by 2030 Instituto para la Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía (IDAE) up to 14 gigawatts (GW) on Spanish roofs. However, the country now has only 3.2 GW, of which 1.2 GW only last year. There are no supply bottlenecks with the Chinese, reports Ismael Morales of the Spanish foundation Renewable materials (RES): “They would rather sign contracts with us than with Germany, because it is clear that the Spanish market will be more interesting in the future.”

A photovoltaic installation without a battery currently costs between 5,000 and 6,000 euros for a single-family house. It will pay off in five to six years. However, the feed-in tariff for self-sufficiency is not subsidized to avoid a resumption of photovoltaic speculation, as was the case in 2000-2010.

Some municipalities offer tax breaks for this, as well as financial aid for solar roofs from EU Next Generation funds. UNEF expert Paula Santos reports that a simple installation in a single-family house without its own electricity supply can now be done in 30 days: “Without bureaucracy, it was much faster.”

However, anyone who wants to officially enter the market as a power generator and make money on it needs a battery warehouse and has to wait a little longer for it also in Spain.

Usually, when self-generated electricity is provided, the respective supplier only guarantees credits on the electricity bill. The price is also below the market level. “In the long run, this could help lower the average electricity price,” says Morales.

In the sign of the sun

But there is still a long way to go, says Enric Bartlett Castellà from Esade Law School in Barcelona: “We need to facilitate and make access to solar roofs easier and more attractive in Spain as well.” Currently, the solar roof is booming, especially in the private sector, but “energy communities are becoming more and more interesting to companies and municipalities. We already have 47 of them, ”says Morales. But that’s not enough, says Óscar Barrero, a partner PWC Spain: “Germany is reaching at least 1750.”

UNEF’s Santos believes that small and medium-sized enterprises can also benefit from the current boom, which in the long run could look at the enormous market power of energy companies: “There are many different models of solar roofs and energy communities, making room for many different suppliers. , a lot is happening in collaboration with communities, companies are often local too. Morales hopes to be more independent from China in the long term: “Thanks to the Next Generation Fund, we can open our own plants to produce solar panels in the country.”

In view of the German energy problem caused by the conflict with the Russians, no one in Spain doubts the triumph of solar energy. Alonso keeps thinking Entrepatia But it goes much further: “It’s about community spirit and a sustainable city life that is not based on growth and price increases.”

Companions share many services such as washing machines as well as responsibilities such as parenting. The shared roof terrace and courtyard allow children to play safely together. “In Germany, such housing projects and energy communities are found in almost all cities, we are just getting started with them because now we feel very strongly about the danger of climate change and our growth model.”

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