Monday, October 18

The term is open to terminate the concession of Iberdrola’s largest hydroelectric plant that expires this decade


Countdown for the Government to initiate the procedure of termination of the concession of Iberdrola’s largest hydroelectric dam that expires this decade: the Villalcampo I and II (Zamora) exploitations.

The Government orders the demolition of 12 of the 21 hydroelectric concessions expired since January 2020

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With 206 megawatts (MW) of power, it is the main concession of this type that expires in the coming years, according to an incomplete list of facilities provided a few months ago by the Ministry for Ecological Transition.

That period will open in the midst of the electricity crisis, which has led to an escalation of tension between the Executive and the companies due to the cut that, to try to reduce the impact on consumers of the exponential rise in the wholesale electricity market, has been applied since September to the remuneration of hydroelectric, nuclear and some renewables due to the exponential rise in gas. The confrontation has been especially intense in the case of the electricity company chaired by Ignacio Sánchez Galán, which on Monday charged against the government’s “terrifying” interventionism and was open to “dialogue.”

The third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, has been open to withdrawing the cuts whenever the EU takes measures at the European level and has opened this Thursday with the CEO of Endesa, José Bogas, a round of contacts with the main executives of the sector that includes Galán himself.

Endesa sources valued the meeting “positively” and any initiative “to seek proposals and measures that solve the problem of the escalation of the wholesale price of electricity and also solve the problem that the electricity sector is facing” since the approval of the September decree, which must be validated by Congress next Thursday and which, according to the electricity companies, leads them to produce losses. Ribera plans to meet this Friday with those responsible for EdP and Acciona and on Wednesday, with those of Naturgy and Acciona, indicate sources in the sector.

As recalled by the Executive in a recent parliamentary response, the concession of these uses by Iberdrola in Zamora “ends on October 10, 2024” and “the concession termination procedure may begin, by the competent basin body, as of October 10 October 2021 “, that is, next Sunday.

“Analyzing the next steps”

“The characteristics of the concession are being studied and the next steps in the extinction procedure are being analyzed,” says Transición Ecológica, which this Thursday published in the BOE the extension of the license for the Ascó nuclear power plant in Tarragona.

Villalcampo was put into service in 1949 and belongs to the hydroelectric system called “Saltos del Duero”, formed by the Aldeadávila and Saucelle falls, on the Duero, and the Villarino waterfall, on the Tormes, in the province of Salamanca; in Zamora, it includes the Ricobayo Falls (Esla River), the Castro Falls, on the Duero, and these two that will expire soon.

“Each of these hydroelectric uses has a different concession end date. Thus, the term of the Villacampo water concession, the first in time to expire, will end in 2024; and the Saucelle term, which is the one that has an expiration date more distant in time, in 2064 “, recalls the Executive.

In the case of Ricobayo, the subject of an information file last summer due to the emptying of that reservoir in full price escalation, the concession ends in December 2039. It dates from August 23, 1926, but was extended in 1994. In 2019 , El Confidencial revealed that Iberdrola, heir to the original concessionaire, managed to get the government of Felipe González to extend the term thanks to some expansion works that will allow it to operate it for 114 years.

The Government pointed out last spring that its idea for the Villalcampo concession was to put it out to tender. It was before the current price escalation and that, in August, Teresa Ribera opened the door to the creation of a public company to take over the expired hydroelectric concessions and charge against the “scandalous” Ricobayo drain. In September, the President of the Government cooled down the option of that public company.

“It is not part of the coalition agreement,” Pedro Sánchez recalled on the eve of approving the Royal Decree-Law that has put the sector on a war footing, which contemplates a temporary cut (until March) of its remuneration that the Government estimated in September at 2,600 million euros, although, according to the companies, the reduction in income is actually much higher: with the price of gas at current levels (the Iberian market reference Mibgas is above 100 euros), the figure would be almost double, about 5,000 million.

The electricity companies also reject a bill to discount the extra income they receive due to the effect on the wholesale market of the rise in CO2, the price of which has also skyrocketed this year and these plants do not support it. This last text, sent to Congress in August, invites them to renounce hydroelectric concessions if they believe that they will not be profitable when applied.

Taking out the concessions, which in many cases date from the Franco dictatorship, is one of the options that are opened when they expire. In other cases, the facilities have come to be managed by the respective hydrographic confederations. And another option is to destroy the infrastructure. In the current legislature, the concessions of 21 dams have expired, all of them of small power, and in 12 of them it has been chosen to order the demolition by the owner for environmental reasons.



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