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In Spain, the installed capacity in 2005 was 10 GW, and reached 11.6 GW in 2006, representing an annual increase of 16 per cent. This impressive total had reached 15,950 GW in July 2008. The main barriers are related to grid connections:

  • Slow and sometimes non-transparent authorisation procedures;
  • Lack of co-ordination between the different levels of government involved and the lack of heterogeneity of the procedure to be followed (which mostly differs in each region); this can lead to conflicts over which level is responsible for what.
  • Delays by the authorities can have a significant impact on the finance of the project.

Despite these barriers, wind energy deployment is successful in Spain.

In Spain, 25 different permits are needed from regional and national authorities, each of which requires a different set of documentation. According to the experiences of the Spanish stakeholders and OPTRES, the permitting process for small-scale projects is just as complex as for large-scale projects. Furthermore, there is no real difference between the processes for different RES-E technologies. In Spain the various administrative bodies are not always well-coordinated, thus causing authorisation application deadlines to be missed.

Regarding administrative licenses in Spain, the administration often requests that project developers process the administrative licenses for the wind farm and the connecting line together. This can be a single dossier or more, depending on whether the line is to be used by a single producer or by several. Negotiations with the owners of the land necessary to build a wind farm are usually quick, while negotiations with the owners of the land necessary to build a connecting line are more difficult. When no agreement can be reached with the land owners, it is possible to expropriate the land as long as the installations are declared to be 'useful to the public' by the authorities.

The authorisation procedures regarding connection to the grid and the environmental impact assessment of RES-E plants often overlap, causing confusion. In the past, conflicts between investors and environmental organisations in some regions, for example Cataluña, have impeded the development of the wind power sector. Moreover, the environmental assessment of the projects is a part of the administrative licensing process and is necessary in order to get the administrative license necessary to build the installations. The administrative license can be processed at the same time as the access and connection licenses. In practice, the environmental assessment process takes about six or seven months.

The electricity grid needs reinforcement and investment as it is of limited scope and cannot accommodate all approved RES-E projects. According to a project developer in Spain, the bottleneck in the development of wind power projects has changed. In the past, the bottleneck was the administrative licensing issue, while nowadays the bottleneck is the connection issue. According to the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE), if a solution is not found, the Spanish wind energy market could stop growing. As for France and Poland, OPTRES has found that it is often impossible for Spanish renewable energy project developers to know the available grid capacity; hence they cannot verify technical and cost data of the grid connection presented to them by the grid operator. In the different regions, there have been different ways of allocating the connection capacity to the different project developers, such as calls for tender. According to the wind power sector in Spain, the target of 20,155 MW installed wind power capacity is likely to be met. However, it is more uncertain whether this capacity is going to be built by 2010 as stated in the political target in the Plan de Energías Renovables (Renewable Energy Plan) published by the Spanish Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving, in 2005. The reason behind a possible delay is not the lack of investment but the possible lack of transport capacity in the grid to transport the produced electric power. The construction of the required infrastructure takes a long time to complete.

In terms of priority grid access, the AEE confirms that all forms of renewable power generation are granted priority grid access under Spanish law. Furthermore, Spanish energy distributors are obliged to buy the energy surplus, which amounts to 20 per cent of the demand coverage. In practice, almost all wind generation, amounting to 95 per cent of the total production, disposes of priority access as long as wind producers offer power at zero price in the electricity market. In this way, guaranteed transmission and distribution of electricity produced from renewable energy sources are highly important as they secure the purchase of the excess power production once connected to the grid.

Looking at grid connection costs, OPTRES observes that the Spanish system is significantly less strict against electricity generators selling the energy to distributors for fixed price, so it applies lower penalties. During the OPTRES stakeholder consultation, some respondents questioned whether it is fair that the investor has to pay for all hardware and renewal costs, while ownership of the installations goes to the grid operator. In Spain, the RES-E developers can get an estimate of connection costs from the grid owners, as it is required by the Spanish legislation. However, the estimate is often not detailed and comprehensive enough and sometimes the costs are exaggerated. In many countries it is unclear how the connection costs should be shared between the grid operator and the RES-E developers. There is a high need for a legal framework with clear, objective and non-discriminatory rules for cost-sharing.

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