Ramón decided to install 5.5 kilowatt (KW) photovoltaic panels on the roof of his home since November 2019. The installation was quick and within a few months he was able to have it up and running. The electricity for your house, located in the municipality of Santa Brígida (Gran Canaria), is generated thanks to the long hours of sunshine that characterize the Islands. He even acquired an electric vehicle that he recharged thanks to the energy generated. However, when he wanted his marketer (Endesa) to recognize the compensation in the bill for dumping surpluses into the network, he found a bucrocratic wall. “It was a nightmare,” he acknowledges.
Towards decarbonisation in the Canary Islands with little public participation
More than a year after the installation started operating, with months of paperwork and frustrations, the user managed to have the contract modified. Since then, in the receipt that you receive each month, a part of your consumption has been deducted from the price of light that is generated with the panels of your house. If a lot of electricity is not consumed during the day and there is excess energy, it feeds into the grid and the commercialization company compensates it. For example, if it costs between € 0.08 and € 0.15 per kWh, about € 0.03 per kWh is discounted. It would never be free.
Ramón, who has asked not to be identified by his real name, has also claimed compensation for all the months in which Endesa has not recognized this right, but has met with silence in response: “I have filed claims, but they answered me that they have been resolved in time or favorably to their interests, without giving me any further arguments. They leave you helpless, it seems that it is organized to make you give up ”, he adds.
Since 2018, the administrative procedure to install self-consumption photovoltaic panels in the Canary Islands has been speeded up compared to the years in which the former Minister of Industry José Manuel Soria’s tax on the sun existed (2011-2015), when the sticks to the wheels of renewables slowed the development of clean sources in a territory with high potential such as the Canary Islands. The regulations that regulate these facilities are recently created: Royal Decree 15/2018 and, above all, RD 244/2019, which recognize self-consumption as a fundamental element in decarbonisation in Spain and, among other actions, simplify procedures administrative.
In the case of facilities such as Ramón’s, which are less than 10 KW to supply energy to a single home, the procedure that you must carry out as a user, in theory, is simple: access possible subsidies, hire an installation company, register the work in the Government of the Canary Islands and, if the surplus is to be poured into the network and obtain compensation, request the modification of the contract with the marketer, which may be Endesa, but also Naturgy or Iberdrola.
“First I checked if the grants were open,” recalls Ramón, as his project cost about 6,000 euros. Some photovoltaic panels with 3 KW are close to 4,000 euros, since the cost is measured by power and the reference is that each kilowatt is around 1,000 euros, which can be increased by the type of roof or the connection to the general electrical panel. To promote self-consumption among citizens, the Government of the Canary Islands provides two subsidies: a specific one with up to 2,500 euros per home and a more extensive one, aimed at improving energy efficiency with the use of renewables in companies and residential buildings, which can reach up to 90,000 euros per project.
Also island institutions, such as the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, have funds for these actions, both for houses and companies, up to a maximum of 4,000 euros per installation. And the town councils offer discounts on the Real Estate Tax (IBI) or on construction facilities and works (ICIO). There are municipalities, such as Santa Úrsula (Tenerife), that have a 50% discount on the IBI for 50 years and 95% on the ICIO. But there are others, such as in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where despite applying 50% to the IBI for three years, in practice, when presenting the documentation to benefit from this measure, it is also required to comply with a municipal ordinance 2009 on solar energy harvesting, which increases paperwork and related spending. This causes reluctance when developing the plates in the most populated city of the Archipelago and, therefore, with greater potential for residential self-consumption.
To access the subsidies, companies dedicated to the installation of photovoltaics also offer advice. Antonio Guerra, co-owner of Solaruc (created in 2003 in Arucas), explains that this type of entity is in charge of placing the plates and preparing a technical report, which includes all the characteristics of the installation. This process can take “two to five days,” says Guerra. The next step is to legalize the panels through the General Directorate of Industry of the Government of the Canary Islands, a procedure that the installation company is also in charge of. Although according to the regulations it is also necessary to request a building license from the corresponding town hall, in practice the regional Executive does not require it, unless there is specific legislation on self-consumption in the municipality. In this case, Ramón says that he sent a statement to the Santa Brígida City Council “in case it was necessary to obtain permission before installation, but there was no problem.”
The promoter then sends the final certificate of the work and the technical report of the project to the Directorate General for Energy, so that it may register and authorize the low voltage installation, in addition to granting a self-consumption code. They can spend “two to four months, even a little more during the summer,” says the co-owner of Solaruc, mainly because of the lack of personnel in the administration. Ramón recalls that the installer completed its work in February 2020 and the Government of the Canary Islands legalized the project in May of that year. And when it only remains for the marketer to modify the contract upon request of the user to compensate the energy, the obstacles rise. In Ramón’s case, it took 13 months.
The consumer says that he received a statement from Endesa in June 2020 informing him that he was aware that photovoltaic panels had been installed in his home and that they required documentation in this regard. The same that the installation company sent to the General Directorate of Industry and to which the electricity distributor (Endesa) has access, which in turn could carry out this procedure with the marketer. He also demanded the correction of a mistake.
“They tell me that there is an error in the power because 5.5 KW appears in the installer’s certificate, but the Government of the Canary Islands reflected 8 KW, which is the maximum capacity that the inverter has. The installer presents the corrected document again and this process takes a few months ”, explains Ramón. At the end of November, Endesa receives all the documentation from the Government of the Canary Islands, but in January 2021 the user continues without compensation.
“So I tried to contact Endesa through customer service so that they would activate the compensation of surpluses, but they did not answer me or they did not help me. They have left me hanging on the phone on several occasions or have made excuses for not giving me the data. After much insistence, they agreed to activate it in June 2021, ”says Ramón. However, when the electricity bill arrived in July, the compensation was not reflected. They told him that it would apply from August because it was activated at the end of July.
Although he acknowledges that the electricity bill he pays has fallen since he installed the panels, Ramón criticizes that for more than a year he has dumped excess energy into the network without obtaining anything in return. In his opinion, “it is perverse”, because its marketer “decides when it begins to compensate you and, the later, the better for Endesa.” Given the lack of transparency of the entity to help you in the process of claiming the discount of part of the invoice during the months in which it has dumped surpluses without compensation, it assures that it is analyzing alternatives, such as going to Consumption or the judicial process.
Challenges in the Canary Islands in self-consumption photovoltaics
In recent years, the demand for photovoltaic panel installations in homes has increased on the islands. Guerra explains that “as of 2018 an increase has been noticed” and currently says that Solaruc installs between 12 and 14 projects a month in Gran Canaria, especially as a result of the rise in the price of electricity. In addition, it considers that the bureaucratic process has also been streamlined compared to before 2018: “Three years ago it took between eight and 14 months to compensate for energy, at least”, and in 2021 it considers that there have been cases in which has come to cut the process in half.
In the Canary Islands, the photovoltaic power in self-consumption currently in operation stands at 12.8 megawatts (MW), according to 2019 data collected by the Photovoltaic self-consumption strategy of the regional government, prepared by the Technological Institute of the Canary Islands (ITC). This is a small part of all the photovoltaic power installed on the islands, which represented around 3% of the total energy mix demanded in the Archipelago and integrated into 17% renewable, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
In the document, the ITC reflects that in the Canary Islands there are 113 square kilometers of covered area suitable for the installation of photovoltaic panels for self-consumption, which would allow a power of 11,233 MW. However, it is an analysis that is far from being able to be carried out, since it would have high levels of surplus energy in the network and more than necessary would be discharged. But it does propose the installation of 1,271 MW of photovoltaic power under self-consumption by the horizon of 2040, which would mean dedicating 7.5% of the total available area on the roof for the generation of electricity and a coverage of 10% of the demand annual with surpluses.
But to encourage the installation of solar panels for self-consumption, the Canary Islands photovoltaic self-consumption strategy It also establishes that certain aspects must be improved, such as setting maximum response times; regional or local self-consumption guides that explain the procedures to be carried out; promotional campaigns and a unification of criteria in municipal ordinances. All this, in order to change the landscape of the rooftops on the islands and contribute to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, in line with the Spanish Climate Change Law, the objectives set by the European Union or the Latest scientific evaluation of the UN International Panel of Experts.