Spain’s 3GW auction prompts solar Supreme Court action

The ‘technology-neutral’ renewables tender resulted in 2.9GW of wind power awarded, with winners including Gas Natural, Enel and Forestalia.

The Spanish government has awarded 3GW of renewable energy projects, with 2,975MW of the new capacity dedicated to wind power.

In a highly anticipated auction which the government said drew bids more than three times the capacity tendered, all of the new projects were awarded without subsidies.

Developer Forestalia was the biggest winner in the auction, scooping 1.2GW of new wind capacity. The company rose to prominence in Spain’s previous 700MW wind and biomass auction last year when it again won the bulk of the capacity on offer, squeezing out bids from some the country’s major energy groups.

It was joined this time by Gas Natural Fenosa, which is 20 percent controlled by Global Infrastructure Partners III and was awarded 600MW of wind projects, while Gamesa emerged with 300MW. Endesa, a subsidiary of Italian group Enel, said it would be investing about €600 million to develop the 540MW it was awarded.

However, the prominence of wind energy in the auction’s results drew a strong response from Spain’s solar industry. Just 1MW of solar energy was procured, with another 20MW dedicated to other technologies, despite the auction being billed as “technology neutral”.

Spanish solar trade body UNEF said the auction shows “this technology has competed in conditions of discrimination” and it has already filed an appeal with the Supreme Court and a complaint with the European Commission. UNEF claimed solar projects were submitted in the auction at the same prices as wind, although the latter was given an advantage. The Spanish government said the auction process has been validated as transparent and non-discriminatory by the National Market and Competition Commission.

The results of the auction and UNEF’s move is yet another setback in the relationship between solar investors and the Spanish authorities. The government earlier this month was forced to pay UK-based fund manager EISER Infrastructure €128 million in compensation following retroactive subsidy cuts, in a case that could be the first of several payouts to embattled solar investors.