Spain to abolish controversial 'sun tax'


Spanish users who install solar panels at home will stop being levied a ‘tax’ to stay connected to the electrical network even if they don’t use it, as well as having to redirect their excess solar energy into the existing power grid with no compensation. 

Madrid announced September 19 (El Confidencial) it will abolish the country’s controversial “impuesto al sol” (solar tax). The charge was introduced in 2015 by the former Popular Party (PP) government to tax individuals who install solar panels in their homes as an additional fee for staying connected to the electrical grid.

The country’s new government, formed in June and headed by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez from the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), is set to cancel the measure introduced by his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy.

For many, the stance Sanchez’s government has on the subject is owed to the appointment of Teresa Ribera as Minister for the Ecological Transition.

A public official from Spain’s Senior Corps of State Civil Administrators, Ribera knows what she’s getting her hands on. She has been a professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid and, most notably, director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) — a think tank that supports the transition towards sustainable development — since 2014, playing a key role in the negotiation of the Paris Climate Agreement at the UN’s Climate Summit in 2015. In her tenure as the Spanish Secretary of State for Climate Change from 2008 to 2011, Ribera was responsible for environmental and climate policies as well as the National Meteorological Agency. (Diario Público, in Spanish)

Ribera confirmed on Tuesday, September 11th that the so-called “sun tax” on the development and home use of photovoltaic solar energy in Spain will be eliminated before December 2018, stressing that the end of this tribute is a priority for the government. (Cinco Días, in Spanish)

Currently, 1,187 private locations in Spain have solar panels installed. Approximately two-thirds of them are affected by the tax (Capital Radio). The remaining locations do not pay the tax because the power generated from their panels is under 10kW.

Spain has witnessed a slow uptake in the private use of solar energy. In 2017, the Mediterranean country installed solar panels which generated 135MW of energy. Meanwhile, Germany installed enough panels to generated 1.8GW of energy, according to SolarPower Europe, despite having just half of Spain’s number of sun hours.

Origins of Spain’s solar tax

When installing panels, users had to sign a contract with an electricity provider to be able to use the electrical network in case their panels did not produce enough energy.

Many users did not need this but still had to pay a tax to keep connected to the network. The amount paid varies depending on different factors – e.g. the number of panels installed, the amount of power produced . For instance, an average Spanish family, with three solar panels installed at home, has to pay 70€ per month to stay connected to the electric network.

Likewise, if they produce an excess of energy it is fed into the network, and users do not receive any compensation.

Is this solar tax the only one of this kind in the world?

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Are there other places with similar taxes on solar panels or self-supply electricity installations?

Do you know any similar examples?

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