Why There Are No Solar Panels in Neighboring Communities: Shared Self-Consumption Doesn’t Start

Catalonia closed last year with 102,626 self-consumption installations. Growth began to be noticeable in 2021, when the number of installations doubled, but especially in 2022, amid rising electricity prices and a boost from Next Generation funds. But last year, with subsidies running out and price controls increasing, self-consumption continued to grow, albeit more moderately.

Now, of all these facilities Only 1% corresponds to shared self-consumption.the way in which an entire community of neighbors or more than one – if they are close – jointly benefits from the installation.

This situation contradicts another reality, which is that Only one-third of the population lives in single-family homes. – a place where self-consumption has grown mainly – while 60% live in residential complexes.

What’s Happening? Barriers to Shared Self-Consumption

The difficulty of getting approval from all the owners, but also bureaucratic hurdles, have hampered its growth so far. According to one Coalition for Self-Consumption Report “There is a danger that self-consumption will become something exceptional that only a few people can afford.”

Among the reasons are the ignorance of citizens and also the ignorance of citizens Non-cooperation from distributors.

The difficulties are familiar to Jordi Miquel, a neighbor of the community of owners in Sabadell. Three years ago, they proposed to the neighbors of the building they live in, as well as the neighbors of the building and the adjacent parking lot, to put panels on the roofs, and to do it together. The idea was that everyone could benefit from their own energy production and sell the surplus to the grid.

“We started in 2021, which is what I proposed, and in April 2022 the board of directors approved it and already on July 31 we had the factory producing, which does not mean compensation in the invoice.”

It has been going fast so far, but since then the hiccups have started to appear. “It took us 6 months from the time we finished the installation and they activated the connection with the distributor,” he explains,Then came the issue of marketing companies.

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In general, it means to some people Delay up to a year and a half This meant losing money, both for the energy generated that they could not consume, but also for the surplus that they could not sell.

How much is 1000 gigawatts wasted?

The Coalition for Self-Consumption estimates that in the midst of the price crisis, regulatory and technical barriers have caused more than 1,000 gigawatt hours of excess energy to be wasted across the state—in other words, the owners of these “utilities” have stopped working. Stop collecting 160 million euros.

Now, once the installation is activated They started to notice the benefits.“The saving is important,” Jordi confirms. “Before, I was spending about 6,000 kilowatts, now I’m spending about 2,800 kilowatts. In other words, we’re talking about 58% less kilowatts.”

In the foreground, the installers

The daily battle is also fought by installers who have to deal with the frustration of customers who see how the process goes on or warn them from the beginning and risk backtracking.

“Modulation is a beast,” explains Andrés Cano, director of Confort Solar. “We are facing the big pitfalls of the big distributors, who are holding the frying pan and don’t want to let go.”

“The facilities that are installed to produce energy, take a year or more – in violation of the law – to activate this self-consumption and start providing this energy and distributing it among the various neighbors, and this cannot be.”

A complaint also launched by UNEF, one of the main associations in the sector. Helena Badger, co-delegate of Catalonia, explains that if you want self-consumption to reach everyone, including those without a roof, “you need to make self-consumption a real option”.

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Badger reports that activation is currently taking a long time. Group installation between 12 and 18 monthsWhereas the same thing — individually — with much simpler processing, takes between one and three months.

Installations with a power of less than 15 kW or those that do not discharge the surplus into the grid have a simpler procedure.

All of this encourages that, as Badger points out, People choose small facilities. Or they do not benefit from the surplus energy, although “what matters to us as a country is to install as much energy as possible and occupy an entire roof because in the end it is less space that we will need later on the ground.”

The time gap between private and shared facilities is one of the biggest barriers today (iStock/Ali Ali)

Distributors and the Learning Curve

And what do distributors say about it? They have been in the eye of the storm for months. From E-distribución, Endesa’s distributor, responsible for 98% of the network in Catalonia, they admit that there is a learning curve: “There are things, of course, that get stuck, and in the end that is what comes to the forefront.”

“We have been under a lot of media pressure, and that has made us more aware that we have to be more proactive.”

This is what Monica Díaz Otero, head of the Retail Market Regulation, explains. He stresses that Endesa has no interest in prohibiting: “We want demand to be electrified, which is why the more people join methods such as self-consumption the better.”

He explains that this is why in the past few months The process has become more transparent and procedures have been simplified. Adhering to the two-month deadline required by law to activate the installation. “We realized that we needed to provide more information, advice and guidance to customers. We put in place a self-consumption action plan last year which I think has yielded a lot of good results.”

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He concludes that if any installation is stuck now, it is most likely Because it does not meet safety standards.which bears the Ministry’s mark, and that its repair is the responsibility of the installer.

Some of this work has been done. Under the umbrella of the National Authority for Markets and Competition (CNMC)Which at the end of last year brought all the concerned customers to the same table with the aim of finding solutions.

“At least a consensus has been reached on how to solve things,” explains Josep Maria Salas, CNMC advisor. “So, with all these measures that fall within our scope, we are trying to definitively allow the procedures to be facilitated, and in the end the citizen or the company that wants to do self-consumption has to worry about doing its job, and not have to become an expert in the entire procedure.”

The workbench will remain active, because Self-consumption still has a long way to go and challenges ahead.

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