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Spain says adiós to the controversial “sun tax”

Author:   |  October 8th, 2018

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Owners of residential solar panel systems will no longer be penalised for the generation of surplus electricity, under new Spanish Energy Regulation.

Last Friday’s news that Spain’s infamous “sun tax” is to be scrapped is a big win for ecological groups, investors in renewable energy and consumers looking to make the transition from non-renewable sources to clean energy

The Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, declared the ruling, which came into effect yesterday, a triumph for common sense. “At last this country is getting rid of the absurdity that international experts ridicule us for.” The ruling, approved by the Cabinet, means that there will be no taxes payable for the generation of surplus electricity via rooftop solar panels, also known as photovoltaic energy.

Photovoltaic energy was first invented by the French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839, although production of solar cells did not take place until 1883. The modern day solar cell was patented by the American Russell Ohl in 1946 and its usefulness was immediately obvious.

Before long, mass-produced solar powered cells were being used to develop all types of technologies from kids’ toys to much grander projects like space satellites: the latter use proving to be a game-changer in the context of the “space race” during the 1950s and 1960s.

Residential use of the solar panel for harnessing the sun’s energy – also called rooftop photovoltaic systems – became a reality in 1992 and has enjoyed exponential commercial success ever since. It is estimated that, nowadays, 99% of European and 90% of U.S. solar power systems are “grid-connected“, as opposed to stand-alone systems.

In many cases, being connected to the national power grid is advantageous for the consumer, as it is very common for any excess electricity generated outside of residential usage to be subject to a payback scheme at the current market rate. In other words, solar panel owners are economically reimbursed for energy they produce and don’t use.

But not in Spain. Until now, profit-obsessed energy companies have held a lot of sway over governmental energy policy and have been an impassable roadblock for sustainable energy to make it to the mainstream consumer.

So last Friday’s ruling really brings Spain in line with most other countries in the world, which have long been accustomed to the positively-geared residential photovoltaic system and, in many cases, offer government subsidies to incentivise the installation of solar cells.

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