It is a profitable alternative to fight against climate change, since, in addition to being a renewable energy source, it does not generate greenhouse gases. Photovoltaic panels have become a determining element for decarbonisation, not only because they use the sun as a resource, which is surplus in Spain and even more so in the Region of Murcia, where it predominates in more than 300 days a year, but also because the Solar is already the cheapest of the clean energies.
Photovoltaic plants have gained a presence in recent times in the national geography, for the most part in very low productivity or marginal lands. These infrastructures, recalls the sector, previously undergo an environmental assessment process, which guarantees respect and compliance with the applicable regulations and environmental controls. In addition, companies buy the land or pay rent to the owners for its use, which is usually above what they would receive from agriculture.
This business also has detractors, who allege loss of biodiversity, discrimination in access to small generators and concentration of projects in the same territory. In order to shed light on the race in the sun, yesterday a ‘webinar’ was held, organized by LA VERDAD and sponsored by Soltec, in which the pros of the ecological transition in the Region of Murcia were discussed. Moderated by the journalist Miguel Ángel Ruiz, the digital meeting was attended by José Ramón Díez de Revenga, Minister of Development and Infrastructure; Raúl Morales, founder and CEO of Soltec; Domingo Jiménez Beltrán, former director of the European Environment Agency; Juan José Cánovas, mayor of Totana; and Juan Toledo, former president of the Murcia Renewable Energy and Energy Savings Business Association (Aremur).
Future. Electrification path
The challenge of electrification is underlined by the European Union, and Spain responds with giant steps to achieve it, thanks to the commitment of administrations, the productive fabric and civil society, a trident that has joined forces to curb climate change and reduce emissions of CO2. Households and mobility are moving towards electrification, which will lead to higher demand. To do this, “you have to generate a lot of electricity and do it well; this is achieved with photovoltaics, “said Diez de Revenga, who supported the regional government’s position to bet on this clean energy” in all its areas: self-consumption, medium and large plants. ” «Taking into account, with all the electricity needs that there will be in the coming years, we need these sources; if not, we will not have enough generation “, he defended, of course, with respect for the environment and complying with the legislation, although” without being excessively bureaucratic because if we go overboard, we stop progress and get adverse effects. “
The regional government has designed a map with the most recommended areas for the installation of photovoltaic projects
For this purpose, the Community has designed a map in which it establishes the most recommended geographical areas to implement photovoltaic installations, with the objective that these projects are conceived from the beginning taking into account their environmental and landscape integration; in this way, the process will be simpler and more profitable. The document includes from the manifestly incompatible, marked in red, to the in principle compatible, in green, as well as those that would be conditional on the relevant sector reports, in yellow. “The territory is very wide and we have meters to spare to satisfy these sources,” he added.
For his part, Raúl Morales assured that only the photovoltaic plants that the electrical system needs will be built and denied that there is a ‘boom’ in this sector such as that which has already occurred in construction: “It has nothing to do with it.” He argued its development based on the law of supply and demand. In other words, “if this energy is not consumed in Spain, the plants will not generate income and the banks, since almost all are financed, will not pay for their construction.” He also indicated that photovoltaic technology “plays a key role” in the production of green hydrogen, to achieve decarbonisation objectives in fields such as transportation.
Soltec is proud to be the maximum exponent of the energy transition in the Community from its position as one of the main manufacturers at a global level, with 20 subsidiaries distributed in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, India and China, among others. “In the Region of Murcia we have nothing to envy any country because we have local technology, knowledge and talent,” Morales boasted, while admitting that Spain is the first power in Europe to re-emerge with photovoltaics, after the promotion that you enjoyed this energy a few years ago. At the regional level, he encouraged “taking this train and not letting it escape”, for which it is necessary to strengthen the ecosystem with new companies that not only manufacture in the area, but also hire local labor.
The president of the Castillo de Chuecos Foundation recalled that the institution was born with the intention of enlightening ideas of change based on the ecological transition, putting the capacities of civil society at the service of the sustainability of the Mediterranean regions and in particular of the Region of Murcia, which acts as a laboratory to later apply this model in other territories. For this reason, “it is essential that the Community be a beacon of sustainability in the Mediterranean,” he declared, for which he requested the adhesion of more universities (the UMU and UPCT already participate) and industries, such as Soltec. One of the purposes of the Foundation is connected self-sufficiency, applicable to both a building and a municipality, passing through industrial estates or agricultural holdings.
The mayor of Totana highlighted the benefits that the construction of the Enel Green Power Spain plant has brought to the municipality: “We found the project that Soltec presented to us interesting”. Of all, one of the strengths is the location, near the protected lands in the Saladares del Guadalentín, which means the disappearance of intensive agriculture, since this model requires high water consumption. Other compelling reasons were that the line to the point of connection to the Spanish Electricity Network was underground, the hiring of local SMEs and unemployed neighbors (approximately 130) for the construction of the photovoltaic complex and an agreement to improve the professional and personal development of users of two centers with disabilities in the town. “We are working to the best of our ability to continue expanding these projects in Totana,” he said.
The Minister of Development and Infrastructures stressed that in the regional government “we leave our skin” to take advantage of the opportunity of the energy transition, through “an ‘ecomodernist’ stance” based on technological advances. Thus, “we can decouple the growth curve from that of the use of resources to grow sustainably and not exploit nature anymore,” he reasoned. This position, likewise, is divided into two approaches: on the one hand, endowing environmental and natural values with an absolute protagonist so as not to allow production systems to affect them, and on the other, «helping rather than prohibiting, because we understand that most people want to respect the laws and comply with this energy transition. In line, he added that administrations must use a didactic methodology in order for society to ally itself with the cause in question: “We are more to convince than to win.”
The former president of Aremur repeated that the Region of Murcia “cannot afford another delay” in the photovoltaic career, after the stoppages caused in previous years by political decisions, including the tariff deficit (difference between income from activities regulations and expenses) in the Zapatero era and the legal framework of the electricity sector approved by the Government of Rajoy. “We can make up for lost time, which is a lot; it is a question of will, “he repeated, to then ask himself why not propose a Pact for the Sun or a Table for Photovoltaics:” If everyone agrees, without putting sticks in the wheels when the projects advance, let’s give a example to the rest of the country and the world. During his speech, he announced that he is “moving” an association related to sustainable energy development in the Region of Murcia, which “will raise awareness and accelerate decisions for the benefit of Murcian society.”
Jiménez Beltrán highlighted the potential of the Region in the production of photovoltaic energy. “It has the resources, personnel, knowledge and companies, it only remains to organize itself to create a project for a sustainable future, because how and where are important,” explained the president of the Castillo de Chuecos Foundation, naming short-termism and misgovernment (including administrations, civil society, taxation …). In this sense, Toledo also advocated for the unity agreement to “visualize the benefits of photovoltaics”, because “we have to respect nature and not continue polluting.”
Proposals. Less bureaucracy and more ambition
At home, before using the energy generated in the self-consumption system for lighting or the operation of electrical appliances and air conditioning, a building license is still required in the Region of Murcia (in other Spanish communities it is not required). This was stated by the CEO of Soltec, who said that it would be “sufficient” with the responsible declaration to carry out the project on the roof of the houses and, therefore, prevent the process from taking up to a year for installations of less than 5kW. He also demanded a stable legal framework that guarantees the legal stability of photovoltaic installations and encouraged “not to miss the opportunity that the Region of Murcia gives us.”
The former director of the European Environment Agency pointed out that the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) “is not ambitious enough” because, in his opinion, the electrification of the State and the Region is “very low”. In data, electricity accounts for 22.2% of the country’s total energy demand and the central government proposes a target of 27% for 2030 in this plan. “The photovoltaic capacity installed in the PNIEC will have to be doubled to have greater electrification,” he added, in order to avoid a moratorium: “It would be outrageous.” It should be remembered that the PNIEC aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and electricity generation to employment.