Spain to Charge Distributed Electric Generators for Grid Use

Published November 10, 2015

In early October, the Spanish government approved a number of fees to be paid by utility customers who use distributed generation, most often roof-top solar photovoltaic panels, to avoid purchasing electricity from the power grid.

The new plan requires customers who provide all or part of their electricity using distributed generation to pay a monthly fee to utilities to offset the costs of maintaining their grid connections for the excess electric power they generate a sell back to the grid and for the electric power they get from utilities to supplement or back up what they generate.

‘Fairness’ At Issue

Throughout the 2000s, the Spanish government had given special tax credits and subsidies to solar power generators, contributing to Spain’s energy, credit and budget problems. Spain has recently substantially reduced these special favors for the industry. The government argues the new fees are a fair shifting of the cost of adding, regulating and maintaining roof-top solar systems. Distributed generation shifts the costs of maintaining the grid from those with distributed generation utility customers to utility customers who do not own distributed generation systems. Spain’s energy ministry argues the cost shifting is “unfair . . . [and] also regressive because the most vulnerable consumers are less likely to self generate.” 

The ministry argues the new program, will provide a “framework where the economic sustainability of the system and proper burden-sharing system is guaranteed.” 

The monthly fees will range in size from about $10 per kilowatt (kW) of installed capacity for residential customers to about $41 per kW of installed capacity for commercial customers, according to PV Tech.

Consumers not connected to the utility grid or those with who distributed generation systems with a total capacity of 10 kW or less will not be subject to the fees.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.