It was like a release. The abolition of the sun tax in 2018 was decisive in promoting a sector, such as the photovoltaic, which until then had remained little less than tied up and hands for lack of profitability. The consequences did not take long to be noticed, with a notable increase in both industrial and residential self-consumption projects that, in any case, is not even comparable to what is yet to come. And it is that the unstoppable rise in electricity prices, together with the funds that are going to arrive from the European Union, are going to multiply by five both the facilities and the power until 2030 in Spain, satisfying the demand of consumers eager to save on their electricity bills. The business prospects are so notable that even the large electricity companies have jumped on this bandwagon which, until very recently, was almost the exclusive territory of small companies. The bubble, however, is swelling so fast that it risks bursting if skilled labor is not available and if component supply problems persist.
The sector is currently configured by uover 2,000 companies which, including both direct and indirect jobs, employ 58,000 workers. According to a report prepared by the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), in 2021, 1,203 megawatts of new power were installed in the country in self-consumption facilities, which meant doubling the figure from the previous year. Domestic installations went from accounting for 19% to representing 32% of the total, while the industrial and commercial sectors shared percentages of 41% and 26%, respectively.
Millions of euros of direct investment planned until 2030 to multiply photovoltaic self-consumption installations in Spain by five and reach the goal of 15 gigawatts of power. So far there are only 3.2.
When explaining this significant takeoff, the general director of this entity, Jose Donoso, refers to the new regulations, very favorable, and to the high prices of electricity. “Individuals – he stresses – have realized that their money is better on their roofs than in banks”.
But, landing on the concrete, what is it that pushes both individuals and companies to opt for solar panels? Effectively, the unstoppable rise in the price of electricity, apart from becoming an incentive to commit to self-consumption, has meant that a domestic installation that used to pay for itself in nine years now does so in practically half. The same occurs with industry and commercial complexes, with initial terms of four and six years, respectively, which have now been reduced in the same terms. The other factor, logically, is the saving in electricity consumption, which ranges from 30% to 80%, even more in some cases.
The general director of the National Association of Producers and Investors of Renewable Energies (Anpier), Raphael Barrera, points to other issues that are also influencing this takeoff. “In recent times -he highlights- the obstacle of distrust regarding the reliability of solar panels and their performance has been broken. At present we can say that we have a very mature technologyhence we find ourselves in a market in full swing”.
However, and despite the fact that self-consumption has skyrocketed since 2018, there is still everything to do. And it is that at the moment there are 3.2 gigawatts installed in Spain, when the goal for 2030 is to reach 15. It is a very complicated goal, but everything indicates that it can be achieved thanks to the 1,400 million euros that they will arrive from the ‘Next Generation’ funds of the European Union, which, according to the calculations handled by the sector, will increase the number of installations fivefold, going from the current 100,000 to half a million. It is also estimated that the community money will translate, in turn, into 5,000 million euros of direct investment. From the outset, for this year it is already expected that the turnover of the self-consumption sector will move in figures close to 1,920 million euros, which will allow the installation of 2,400 megawatts.
Years it takes to amortize a residential photovoltaic installation. The industrial ones are paid in just two years and those of shopping centers, in three.
To achieve these objectives, companies have launched a commercial battle to obtain the maximum number of customers, offering offers and facilities of all kinds. This is the case of Otovo, a Norwegian company specializing in domestic self-consumption, which has been operating in Spain for some time. The CEO of the firm here, Inigo Amoribieta, indicates that a typical installation for a house has an approximate cost of 5,000 euros, an investment that thus, from the outset, there are some families that cannot afford. That is why they are offering the opportunity to opt for a rent of 40 or 50 euros per month for a period of 20 years, “which allows -he clarifies- savings greater than what is paid. It is an interesting option, because it does not nothing has to be amortized, as there is no investment involved”.
Another company that has made self-consumption its reason for being is Holaluz, which currently has no less than 400,000 customers through a unique marketing concept. So says its CEO, Charlotte Pi, who points out that the basis of his business is the installation of more solar panels than those needed by the person he hires, so that customers who do not have a roof can also be supplied with surplus energy. “The original client – he emphasizes – manages to save 100% of what he consumes and provides energy to two more homes located within a radius of 500 meters around”. PiIn addition, it highlights the potential of the 10 million technically viable residential roofs that exist in Spain. “We could reach 50,000 megawatts of power, when there are currently only 500”, he indicates.
Solar Cover, on the other hand, is a company specialized in industrial self-consumption. your manager, Louis Navarro, points out that one of the issues that is promoting photovoltaic energy in companies is the emergence of lithium batteries, which allow surplus energy to be stored so that it can be consumed at night or at times when the electricity rate is more expensive. “This is a real revolution,” she says. His company has specialized in this area, and is soon planning to install what is currently the largest mega-battery in Europe, six meters wide and weighing 30 tons, at the Texathenea factory in Villena.
Direct and indirect jobs generated by the sector today. Much more staff will be needed to meet the budding demand.
The large electricity companies are also betting on self-consumption, in view of the fact that it is a sector in full expansion. Repsol and Telefónica, without going any further, announced this week the market launch of Solar360, a joint company that aims to become a leader in this market with innovative services for individuals, neighborhood communities and companies. Iberdrola, for its part, highlights that 40% of the 100,000 existing customers in the country are managed by them, while Naturgy points out that it accompanies all types of customers, from industrial to residential, passing through communities of owners or SMEs , so that they obtain savings of between 40% and 70%.
However, the growth forecasts are so enormous that in the same sector there is the fear that a bubble is swelling that cannot be addressed. And it is that there are already labor problems, due to not having enough specialized personnel, to which must be added the current context of rupture of the supply chains, which can lead to installation delays. Two factors that paint a panorama full of uncertainties.
Millions of euros that the sector expects to invoice this year in photovoltaic self-consumption installations. The installed power will be around 2,400 megawatts.
And in the midst of all this, what do customers think? There are not too many complaints related to the sector, although the OCU warns of issues related to compensation for the surpluses that are poured into the network, or the quality of some solar panels in terms of performance and durability. However, even the environmental organization Greenpeace itself promotes self-consumption, and not only to reduce CO² emissions and combat climate change, but also to avoid energy dependence on Russia and stop fueling what they call the war of Putin.