Friday, March 24, 2023

Hundreds of renewable projects hang by a thread: Administration races against time to avoid failure

Official bulletins of the state and autonomous communities have been making a splash for days. The cascade of administrative proposals on the environmental impact statements of hundreds of projects is a constant journey, yes, a journey too. There is an explanation for this rush: hundreds of projects are in limbo and will fade into oblivion if they don’t get the go-ahead before Wednesday. The risk of this happening is huge for two reasons. First, because the decarbonization roadmap relies on rapid deployment of wind and photovoltaics; Second, because developers who receive silence for answers will most likely end up in litigation, which will open a dangerous legal path.

As if it were a race against the clock, the technicians of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and above all, autonomously, hurry the last hour to give the green signal (or worse) to dozens of projects. According to half a dozen industry sources consulted by this newspaper, the biggest bottleneck lies in the second phase, the regional one, generally lagging behind.

While the central government, through the mouth of the third vice president, Teresa Ribera, has promised that “100% of the projects whose evaluation depends on the ministry” are “resolved” on January 25, the reality differs radically in a handful of cases. Areas where administrative deadlock remains unresolved. In any case, ministry sources denied any threat to compliance with the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), the true roadmap for renewable energy: “There is no risk; that’s for sure”.

“The vast majority of communities assure us that they are in a position to do so, [pero] Yes, we are concerned that some are still concerned about whether or not they will be able to resolve these processes,” Ribera slipped in response to questions from EL Pais last week. However, autonomy by definition is a heterogeneous There are some that are very advanced, such as Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha or Andalucia, to name the three most prominent cases, which have been able to hang a band of areas favorable to renewal and many ahead of the rest. However, others, such as Galicia, the Valencian Community or Catalonia, accumulate serious delays that probably cause many of these projects to not respond in time.

“There is no doubt, it has accelerated,” acknowledged Jose Donoso, head of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF). Ribera’s test [que se negó a prolongar por segunda vez el plazo, como ya hizo a finales de 2021] It has worked, but we still do not know how many projects can stay on the air”. The contention that the administration has to study each project and provide an environmental impact statement where appropriate depends on its size: those with more than 50 megawatts (MW) of installed power come under the ministry’s purview; The rest, on the communities.

“There has been a definite reaction, a definite reaction of pitching, above all since mid-December,” says José María González Moya, general director of the APPA sector association. “But we are back to business as usual: there is a lack of information about the processes that are in progress and those that are nearing completion.” Given the total impasse until a few weeks ago, Gonzalez Moya sees it as “part” of the projects will end up by the wayside. “Nevertheless, we hope they will continue to press on with what is left. It would be a shame if serious, mature and practical projects were abandoned midway.” His words give voice to a sector that has long been complaining about a lack of public means — officials — to attend to the avalanche of environmental impact statements.

Litigation Risk

“Some companies have already clearly stated that if the environmental impact statement is received by the administration, they will litigate,” said a source in the sector on condition of anonymity. “Several law firms have organized meetings and webinars to inform about judicial possibilities for administering a matrimonial claim. It is a possibility that exists and that no one can deny.”

Both the administration’s haste and the pressure from companies largely account for the possibility, not too distant today, of seeing his face in court. Something that no party would want. “This would open an uncertain and complex watermelon, as it could block various access points to the grid and, in turn, slow down the deployment of renewables in those areas. Jurisdiction is never positive for anyone: neither neither for the sector nor for the administration”, warned Juan Virgilio Marquez, General Director of the Wind Energy Trade Association (AEE).

A big part of the bottleneck lies in that segment, wind power, whose projects are more complex and difficult to evaluate. The head of PREPA still estimates 10 gigawatts (GW) are at risk ahead of the Jan. 25 deadline. This is a third of the total installed capacity of this technology in Spain. “After the summer it almost doubled, to around 19 GW. The change of pace in recent months has been brutal; we know they are working even at the weekend and that is something we are very grateful for. But we cannot leave out any project that can be approved and that can inject energy in the coming years, ”he explains by phone. “We are concerned, above all, about Galicia and Catalonia , where some promoters are starting to give up.”

Don’t know after 25th

Although this Wednesday, the 25th is the deadline, we will have to wait a while to find out the exact amount and weight of projects that get caught in the web of bureaucracy. For two reasons: because some will be resolved in a timely manner, but will not be notified in official gazettes, both national and regional, until several days later. AND WHEREAS a text from the National Market and Competition Commission (CNMC) in mid-September opened the door for the deadline for obtaining the above Environmental Impact Statement from the moment the project owner accepted the techno-economic conditions, Not from that moment on. In which the connection point to the network was assigned.

“If so, this period will automatically be extended for a few more months; Each project will have a different deadline, but will undoubtedly be extended”, explain sources in the region. “I know there are distributors who are communicating with those affected that this is the case, and those who are not. We have asked the CNMC and we are still waiting for an answer,” slides Juan Virgilio Marquez from AEE. “It will be necessary to clarify whether those affected are going to have more time. For the time being, this is something that enters the realm of interpretation. But in the absence of a final signature there is something positive to save power from serious projects”.

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Nation World News Desk
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