Spain may force any solar plant owners who cheated on paperwork to gain higher subsidies to repay income earned through deception, a ministry official said.
Officials will ask the operators of photovoltaic plants with about 800 megawatts of capacity, or a quarter of the total, to prove their panels were connected to Spain’s power grid before the September 2008 deadline for earning the highest premium, the industry ministry official said today at a Madrid news briefing. The plan will be set out in a decree due to be approved tomorrow by the Spanish government, he said.
While all photovoltaic plants will be obliged to prove they met the deadlines for subsidies, officials will focus their probe on plants that industry groups have identified as suspicious. Solar lobbyists have called on the government to clamp down on fraud within the industry as executives and officials negotiate ways to reduce the subsidies that consumers pay to renewable-energy producers.
Spain’s 52,000 photovoltaic-panel installations earn as much as 440 euros ($576) a megawatt-hour, or almost 10 times the futures price for 2011 power in the wholesale market. The premium was set at that level to spur investment in clean power.
Solar plants claimed more than half the 5 billion euros in renewable-power subsidies paid by homes and businesses through their bills last year while producing 11 percent of Spain’s emission-free electricity.
Rein in Deficit
The government is trying to cut rates to help economic growth after investors dumped the country’s bonds on concern it will struggle to rein in a budget deficit that reached 11.2 percent of gross domestic product last year.
Officials across Europe are looking too to rein in profits that energy companies earn under laws set up to reduce emissions. Germany has eliminated tax breaks for biofuels and cut solar energy subsidies this year while Italy plans to scrap a price-floor for emission-free power.
Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian said April 28 he wanted to lower the cost of Spanish power to boost the competitiveness of the country’s manufacturers. The government already cut the price for future projects more than 20 percent in a September 2008 law, sparking a rush among plant developers to hook up their generators before the deadline.
Reporter on this story: Ben Sills