Wednesday, January 19

Joan Groizard, general director of IDAE: “As is the price of electricity, savings with self-consumption can be important”

Joan Groizard (Palma, 1989) has directed the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE) since September 2019, a body dependent on the Ministry for Ecological Transition that will play an important role in the distribution of European funds.

The Government proposes to use public buildings to promote self-consumption and reduce energy poverty

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Degree and master’s degree in Energy and Environmental Engineering from the University of Cambridge, he began his political career at Equo and was director general of Climate Change of the Balearic Government. In the private sector, he has worked as a renewable energy engineer in the promotion and operation of wind and photovoltaic projects in the United Kingdom and France.

Groizard answered by phone on Wednesday, after publishing a Royal Decree-Law with energy measures that eliminates several obstacles to self-consumption, for which the Executive has just approved a roadmap designed by the entity he directs. He believes that very soon Spain “should lead” this solution at the European level: “We have the sun, the companies, the value chain and now the measures.” And he celebrates that “the reaction of companies and citizens to the high prices of electricity is that renewables are the answer.”

It does not enter the rag in the debate on the presence of the State in the management of expired hydroelectric concessions. It does point out that IDAE, a public company, has technical solvency and experience to manage them, if necessary. After the interview, the umpteenth record of the electricity wholesale market arrives. “All the more reason we must accelerate the renewable deployment.”

What would you say to a consumer or community of neighbors who consider putting self-consumption plates before the escalation of light?

Ask for an offer now. Self-consumption is not something for the future. There are already thousands of consumers in Spain who are saving money with it. Whether they have their own roof or if they are in a community of neighbors, the regulations allow it. As is the price, the savings can be significant. And they don’t even have to advance the money. There are many alternatives in which the company does it or finances itself and is paid with what is saved.

Installations up to 100 kilowatts no longer need to present guarantees to order a connection point. Implying?

Until now, a guarantee had to be presented and this did not affect installations of up to 15 kilowatts, such as a single-family, but it did affect a multi-family or an SME, above all. It was inexpensive, though low. And above all, now it is one less paper in the process, one less response from the administration. This way we speed up the installation.

A restriction on collective self-consumption has also been eliminated: it is allowed to share generation in 500 meters to high voltage installations. What does it suppose?

Collective self-consumption, which we introduced in 2018, has not yet reached its potential. In Spain, more than 70% of the people live in communities of owners, in blocks of flats. Not everyone has their own roof and this concept was important to us: generating power for yourself near where you use it, but not necessarily on your roof. The restriction of being connected in low voltage surely worked for small housing installations. But not for a slightly large institute, the offices of a medium-sized company or a public building of a certain size, which may have an interesting roof to install solar panels. They require high voltage and until now they could do it for their own use, but not share it with their environment. With this we enable another scenario for collective self-consumption, especially thinking about public buildings. Another example is hotels. They are often open in the tourist season. With this new authorization, the homes in the area in low season, in winter, can take advantage of that generation that the hotel only needs in summer.

Collective self-consumption, which we introduced in 2018, has not yet reached its potential

The self-consumption roadmap proposes use public buildings to reduce energy poverty. Are more measures to be taken to do so?

The roadmap provides for a self-consumption table where the autonomous communities or the CNMC will be. In it we will monitor the information and data, where we have another important gap; of the regulations, including the sanctioning regime, in which part of the powers are autonomous and it is important to coordinate; and in promoting that the autonomous communities, which have hospitals and other public buildings, share good practices. We will also set up a specific working group with local entities, because in general the municipalities are the ones with the most presence in the territory. We are going to promote it for the part of collaboration, to put in value good practices and with recommendations for local entities. With the aid that we have in place, the autonomous communities and municipalities can be used, which can already share a part of their own consumption.

The decree introduces new sanctions to electricity distributors for not having a customer service for self-consumers or for practices such as “artificial lengthening of the processing process and registration of self-consumption facilities.” Have there been many cases?

We have received a lot of qualitative evidence but few concrete complaints. There was no such specific type in the Electricity Sector Law to open a sanctioning file. Distributors, such as the Administration, have had to update their procedures or computer systems to get this out. But one of the issues that came to us is that in practice the deadlines were not met. In some cases, due to lack of documentation from the promoter. And in others, for reasons attributable to the distributor, such as that their platform was failing. I want to believe that due to technical, human or other failures; not out of bad faith. With this framework we allow a concrete basis for there to be a specific type. Depending on the recurrence, it can be an even serious or very serious offense and with powerful penalties. Until now we could understand that it was a complex issue, that all the systems were being put into operation. But everyone would have to have them already and process it well. The time for excuses is running out.

The CNMC estimates for self-consumption in 2025 would exceed the forecasts of the Government’s roadmap until 2030. Have they fallen short?

It is possible, hopefully so and we will be able to do it faster and better. It will be good news. It will mean that there will be more users saving and we will be able to install more renewables more quickly. The objective was to have a very specific methodology based on the available space and what is technically and economically feasible and with a series of hypotheses. I insist, we may have fallen short, but we must take into account that more than 70% of Spaniards who live in communities of owners, in which we all know how difficult it is to reach an agreement. If this takes off much faster, great, we’ll update the targets in the next review. In addition, the CNMC’s forecasts had a very specific function, to analyze the sufficiency of tolls, and were based on a different methodology.

They expect 2021 to close with 2.5 gigawatts of self-consumption installed, compared to 1.5 a year ago. When are we going to converge with other European countries?

We are behind, and it is a shame, of countries like Germany, with more population and budget, but also much less sun. The main difference has been a few years of wasted time. That, when talking about curves that grow very fast, makes a difference of several orders of magnitude. I do not know when that convergence will occur, but the pace is taking off and very soon we should reach or even lead self-consumption at the European level. We would be much better off if we had not had a tax on the sun, and a framework that totally discouraged self-consumption. And it is not only that we have less surface area per person in building to put plates, but it seems that it costs us more to reach collective decisions than in other European countries. Surely there are several factors. But we have the sun, the companies, the value chain and now the measures.

Beyond self-consumption, they have launched the construction of the first hydroelectric power station promoted by the IDAE since the 90s. Will there be more?

We have to analyze it case by case. This project should not be understood in the most recent debate on the participation of the State or not in the energy field. IDAE has invested for decades and is a shareholder in wind farms, mini-plants and others, to accelerate the energy transition and have that first-hand visibility of the sector. Being one more agent allows us to have a much closer view of reality at street level and fulfill our functions much better. And for the very viability of a public company, we must have returns. To lift the blind, our activity is not financed with state budgets, but with our own resources. Those are the functions of IDAE investments.

In this case, all we do is be consultants for the Duero Hydrographic Confederation, which is the one that is going to operate its own hydroelectric plant. We do the engineering and construction work and so on, because of the knowledge we have in the house. Will there be more? It is the colleagues of the Secretary of State for the Environment who lead what is happening with the end of the useful life of the existing concessions. This is what is going to mark above all: the water policy and management of the hydrological plans. We have those capabilities and we are going to continue investing in renewable and other projects, of course. The part of the hydroelectric plants must be seen in a broader context that is still being developed.

In any case, there has been talk of a public company assuming these concessions. Could the IDAE take on that role?

To date, IDAE already manages hydroelectric plants. It is true that they are mini-hydraulic, smaller, what they call flowing, not pumping, that raise and lower the water: they simply use the movement of the river. Today we already operate renewable infrastructures. We have the technical capacity, that is there. But there is a much broader debate about what the role of the state in the electricity system should be. And there are internal market rules that would not allow much difference in what I could do with those plants. You have to participate in the market under certain conditions. The ultimate goal of the State is to provide public services and not maximize profitability, of course. But the market rules are what they are. The state cannot do dumping in the electricity sector, like no other. That is part of this debate. We have the technical capacity, but we are a little to that much more strategic decision that has not yet been completed.

The State cannot dump the electricity sector, as in no other

In the COP of December 2019 it said that Spain can probably advance the goal of a 100% renewable system to 2040. Do you keep it?

I keep it. Even in COVID, when the economy slowed, self-consumption continued to take off. And the reflection is that, that maybe we have fallen short in the strategy. At auctions [de renovables] There has been far more MW on offer than is available. Even at the end of the year, in a context of very high market prices. The tendency could be to not show up because it can make more money to sell in the pool than to guarantee a long-term price. The reaction of companies and citizens to high prices is that renewables are the answer, and that has been well understood. All the signs continue to lead us to the fact that the renewable deployment in Spain is at least maintained or accelerated. So I think we can get to that 100% electric renewables long before 2050.

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