Grants to promote energy self-consumption fall short

2 min
Image of photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of La Fragua de la Hospitalet.

The irresponsibility of the People's Party governments' imposing the so-called "tax on the sun" (which forced energy self-consumers to pay additional tax) will go down in history books as an example of bad government and political and environmental short-sightedness. It delayed for many years the process of energy transition in the State, and this means that now we have to hurry to achieve minimum standards which in other countries have been the norm for some time. This is proved by the fact that since the repeal of the tax that penalised self-consumption, the number of new installations multiplied, as has the power installed, and not only by individuals but also by companies. At a time when the price of electricity is skyrocketing due to the type of tariff system in Spain – which penalises the consumer, since the energy produced in fossil fuel plants such as gas, which is more expensive and polluting, is the one that ends up setting the final price – the option of self-consumption, despite the initial investment, is gaining more and more followers.

New photovoltaic self-consumption installations in Catalonia have gone from 421 in 2018, when the sun tax was still in place, to 12,807 in 2021. This huge increase has been boosted by the administrations handing out a variety of grants. In total, €660m have been allocated for the whole State, of which to Catalonia was awarded just over €112m. This amount has been insufficient because there is an over-demand of 18%, since requests added up to €133m. In fact, this is in global terms, but if we focus solely on the demand for self-consumption of renewables in the residential sector, administrations and charities, demand has almost doubled the grants on offer.

Initially it was mainly households that signed up, but more and more companies and businesses are also applying for these subsidies, which in some cases can cover up to 60% of the cost of the installation. The problem is that we are in February and these grants, which are necessary if we really want to take a clear step towards energy transition, have practically run out. The call was published in December and at this point they have already been exhausted and many people have been left out. European funds and government aid must reach all levels of the population and not just the large electricity companies, which are not only benefiting now from the high energy prices, but have activated all the mechanisms to obtain grants for the construction of large renewable energy installations.

Self-consumption of energy may not be the whole solution, but it is part of the solution. It is essential that there is a change in the landscape of towns and cities so that most roofs have self-consumption solar panels to make the model more sustainable. Catalonia is late – it is lagging behind other countries and most of Spain – and cannot hide behind what Madrid, which has a lot of responsibility, might do, but must make its own clear commitment, mobilising public and private money to accelerate this transformation