That all the owners of a residential building could obtain from photovoltaic panels some of the electricity they consume inside their apartments was banned until very recently in Spain. The controversial Royal Decree 900/2015, of 9 October, on the Regulation of Self-consumption Electric, contrary to the recommendations of the European Community, says: “In no case a generator can be connected to the internal network of several consumers.”
This restriction has been a retaining wall for the implementation of these facilities and has exacerbated the insignificant interest that, until now, has aroused photovoltaic energy among the owners. In Spain only self-consumption was allowed for common elements – garage, stairway light or elevators. Also, that each neighbor had its own individual facility in a common area of the building, as if it were a chalet.
But the Constitutional Court (TC) has opened a door that can give wings to the shared electric self-consumption in Spain, by repealing the article where it is prohibited. The ruling of May 25, in favor of the appeal brought by the Generalitat de Catalunya, “defends the possibility of installing self-consumption facilities in housing estates and housing developments of which several users can benefit,” explains José Donoso, general director of The Spanish Photovoltaic Union (Unef), for whom the ban was a “nonsense”. The ruling emphasizes that these facilities are a means to implement the building of almost zero energy consumption that the European Union requires from 2020.
The opinion also states that the State does not have the powers to register and manage the registration of facilities, but to the autonomous communities. It is important to note that the TC does not say that self-consumption should be done, but that the state ban is unconstitutional.
What does this sentence mean in practice? In the absence of a regulatory development that regulates this issue in detail, the ball is now on the roof of the autonomies, whose will will depend on the implementation of shared self-consumption is a reality in Spain. “We are aware that many are favorable and that they intend to expedite the deadlines for their regulation as soon as possible, some will go faster and some less,” says Donoso
Although it is not “strictly necessary an autonomic regulation”, considers Luis Perez de Ayala, partner of Cuatrecasas. “Even though there is now a legal vacuum, any community of neighbors could start hiring its installation today, since the TC says that it is no longer prohibited, so it would not require an express normative development by the autonomy “, Emphasizes the lawyer. The OCU consumer organization is clear: “The possibility is finally opened for shared electric self-consumption in residential buildings or developments in our country.”
Even so, it is very likely that until all doubts are cleared, the distributor does not legalize the installation. “Electricians would not make it easy,” says Manel Romero, delegate of Unef in Catalonia. That is why “the most convenient thing is to wait for the autonomous communities to regulate self-consumption and the system of registers. If they are installed before, there is a risk that modifications will have to be made in the future”, says Salvador Díez, president of the General Council Of Farm Administrators’ Colleges (CGCAFE).
There are already autonomous communities that are making self-consumption one of their priorities, such as the Generalitat de Catalunya, who presented the appeal to the TC. “Until now, it was very difficult for a community to authorize an owner to use part of the cover for individual use, and the new legal framework will facilitate the placement of panels in multi-family dwellings,” says Joan Aregio, Secretary of Enterprise and Competitiveness of Generalitat. “Our task now is to study the scope of the new scenario to ensure greater legal certainty for citizens who decide to share the energy they generate. It may be unnecessary to approve new regulations,” he adds. In the case of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, “actions to promote self-consumption will be more effective in making facilities not only private but also collective”. But, they say, “this does not imply that the Community of Madrid has to make any regulation”.
Road of thorns
However, the road will not be easy: many records, certificates and forms. Excessive administrative procedures. In addition, it is most likely that the installed power exceeds 10 kilowatts, so the neighbors will have to pay the toll, the so-called sun tax. Although this is one of the many unknowns to clear: “if you add the powers of the different users connected to a generator or are considered individually to not pay toll,” say from the Generalitat.
There are even those who believe that there will be technical difficulties for the practical
Collective photovoltaic self-consumption, such as José Antonio González, of the company Red-Photovoltaica. “It has a long way to go to solve technical and economic problems, something that does not happen with the common facilities of the buildings (elevators, garages, light, swimming pool, centralized air conditioning) and with the individual of neighbors who have permission to locate their Generators in common areas, perfectly viable today, “he says. A point that does not coincide Manel Romero, delegate of Unef in Catalonia: “There are solutions and equipment in the market that could be installed today.”
Be that as it may, not all farms will be able to place panels by the capacity of their decks or gardens. According to Díez, there could be 60% (4.2 million buildings) and would have to face an investment of about 60,000 euros. In return, they can get between 30% and 35% of the electricity of the photovoltaic panels, according to Donoso. “Where you save the most is when you produce and consume your own energy; There is profitable, but if neighbors are away from home most of the day the energy not consumed is lost, “he explains. If it occurs more than what is needed, it could be stored in batteries, but they are very costly and unprofitable. The most common will be to pour the surplus energy into the network without remuneration, although they could sell it.