Spain's solar implosion
Spain is lancing an 18 billion-euro ($24 billion) investment bubble in solar energy that has boosted public liabilities, choking off new projects as it works to cut power prices and insulate itself from Greece’s debt crisis.If the industry was truly competitive it would not need a subsidy to begin with. The subsidy is just another form of market manipulation to try to deal with the inefficiencies of solar energy. Most of these plants will never be competitive with traditional energy sources unless the leftist can drive up the cost of fossil fuels with other forms of market manipulation. While they would like to do that, they will find great resistance from consumers and voters.
Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian is negotiating reductions in subsidies for solar plants that would curb energy costs, a ministry spokesman said this week. Grupo T-Solar Global SA, the world’s biggest photovoltaic plant owner, shelved its Spanish stock offering three days ago. Solar Opportunities SL postponed a 130 million-euro deal due to be signed today.
“They’ve put the fear of god into all these investors,” said Paul Turney, chief executive officer of Madrid-based Solar Opportunities. “By the time they’ve finished dithering around, they’ll have hurt their credibility so badly that no one will want to invest.”
Spain is battling on several fronts to revive its economy and convince government bondholders it can avoid getting dragged into a Greek-style debt spiral after Standard & Poor’s cut its credit rating April 28. Solar-plant owners including General Electric Co. earn about 12 times what’s paid for power from fossil fuels. Most of that is a subsidy charged to customers.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s government last cut solar rates in 2008, hitting plants not built at the time. Now it’s weighing reductions for the thousands of installations already making power from the sun, wind and biomass.
Spain’s fixed-price system for renewable power, which attracted more investment in solar panels in 2008 than the rest of the world put together, boosts the state’s liabilities even though they don’t show up on its balance sheet.
That’s because the Spanish system delays payments by consumers for part of their electric bills for years. The government guarantees repayment to power suppliers such as Endesa SA and Gas Natural SDG SA. The cost of those unpaid bills rose last year by about 4 billion euros to 16 billion euros.
Spain intends to revise the clean-energy rates down “to avoid damaging the competitiveness of industry,” Sebastian told the Spanish parliament yesterday.