The State will recover some thirty hydroelectric plants by 2031 without the Government having decided what to do with them. The Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge has identified about 30 hydroelectric concessions that expire in the next decade and that add a power of more than 700 megawatts (MW).
elDiario.es requested at the end of May from the ministry the list of facilities whose concession expires in ten years. Teresa Ribera’s department has provided a list based on the information provided by the different hydrographic confederations. The Ministry itself recognizes that it is incomplete, since it excludes many small power plants. Ribera itself estimated at the end of 2018 the concessions that were to be extinguished from then until 2030 at 70. Those 700 MW are a considerable figure (a nuclear power plant is around 1,000 MW), but they would be well below the real MW market that will expire in the next few years.
The issue of the expiration of hydroelectric dams becomes relevant at a time when, with the wholesale electricity market triggered by the rise in gas prices and emission rights, the Government has been forced to approve a specific reduction of taxes on the light to try to hold back the climb. Podemos has resumed the request that its electoral program included that those concessions that are about to expire be assumed by a public energy company. An option that Ribera seems to have ruled out. This instrument is common in many countries in the developed world.
In the list provided by the ministry, the two main dams whose concession is going to expire are two plants in the Duero basin in the province of Zamora operated by Iberdrola whose concession expires as of 2024 and that the Government has stated that it plans to remove contest when they expire, as explained in a recent battery of parliamentary responses.
These are the Villalcampo dams, which were put into service in 1949; and Saltos de Castro, inaugurated in 1952. Between the two they add up to about 405 MW, according to data on the website of the company, the national hydroelectric leader. This makes Iberdrola the company that will beat the most hydroelectric power in the next decade, with about 435 MW.
Next is Naturgy, with about 108 MW in four hydroelectric plants in the Tagus basin, most of which expire after 2029: Burguillo (Ávila: about 49 MW), an infrastructure belonging to the State that, according to a report by the extinct Energy Commission (CNE), was put into service in 1930, and Entrepeñas (Guadalajara, 41 MW), which began to operate in 1956.
The company with the most facilities to expire in the list provided by Transición Ecológica is Endesa, together with its parent company Enel: a total of seven hydroelectric facilities with 90 MW whose concession expires between 2024 and 2029. The most prominent are two in Jaén whose owner is the State: El Tranco de Beas (almost 40 MW), which began operating in 1953 (expires in 2028) and Jándula (14.6 MW), which dates from 1930 and whose concession expires in 2029, a term much longer than the 75 years that the legislation generally establishes.
The following companies are the Portuguese EdP (18.23 MW from an exploitation in Asturias, Priañes, which expires in 2024), and Acciona, with another 17 MW that, according to information from the Ministry, expire in 2027 and 2028.
However, Acciona itself submitted in May a presentation to the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) in which it included a detailed list of its hydroelectric uses and the expiration date of its concessions. According to this document, the Entrecanales family group is due between 2021 and 2030 another 40.7 MW that do not appear in the relationship provided by Ecological Transition.
This gives an idea of the extent to which the data provided by the Ministry are incomplete. The list also does not include facilities that did appear in a list of concessions about to expire that the Government of Mariano Rajoy provided in a 2014 parliamentary response.
A “limited” volume
Teresa Ribera left open shortly after assuming her portfolio the possibility of the State exploiting these MW directly. “There is a volume, which is a limited volume, which should allow us to think about options a little more in line with the needs of the 21st century, which are basically to guarantee a certain price for vulnerable consumers and a certain storage capacity and moderation of average prices. with a potential that, in theory, is a public potential, therefore, dependent on a public order decision, “she said in her debut as minister in the Senate in 2018.
Then, a report from the Observatory for Sustainability estimated that by that date 7% of the concessions measured in volume of water had already expired and that by 2030 another 8% would progressively expire.
Last January, in the midst of the rise in light due to the storm Filomena, the fourth vice president, however, ruled out the creation of a public energy company. “I am not sure that setting a single price, the creation of a public company or the nationalization of the sector will facilitate any type of transformation of our system.”
“On the contrary, probably in a complex context such as energy, what we need is to activate all the levers at the same time, being clear about the balance we want to achieve from the social, environmental and viability point of view of the system. We could not advance if we start to have generalized supply problems. It would be a return to the starting box and a very great mistrust on the part of consumers or companies, “he said.
The ‘windfall profits’
Ribera has just approved a draft law that plans to drain the remuneration of hydroelectric, nuclear and older wind farms to try to lower the price of electricity by acting on the “benefits that have fallen from the sky” that they receive due to the high cost of carbon , which they do not face. The proposal has led power companies to threaten the early closure of the reactors, which they say are at a loss. The nuclear lobby has called for its production to be paid a fixed price to “cover costs.”
The use of a public good such as water by the State is an old demand of the left. Some experts defend it as a means to lower the price of electricity.
“It would be great if hydroelectric plants that expire were concentrated in a public company. This source provides a service of incalculable value for the electrical system: to cover the intermittency of renewables, shave the polluting production peaks, concentrate production when a nuclear power plant is shut down … Its management must be completely oriented to the general interest, and right now it is not, ”said the former president of Red Eléctrica Jorge Fabra in a recent interview.