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Spain updates legal framework for permitting wind and PV installations

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On the 31 March 2022, Spain's Royal Decree – Law 6/2022 came into force establishing, among other measures, the streamlining of procedures concerning renewable energy projects and a ruling on access and grid connection.
  Spain's Royal Decree – Law 6/2022 which came into force on 31 March 2022 has updated the Spanish legal framework for permitting wind farms and photovoltaic (PV) installations in the country.

The new Royal Decree – Law, which was the subject of our last newsletter, sets out regulations intended to fulfil the objectives provided by Spanish Act 7/2021, of 20 May 2021, on Climate Change and Energy Transition. This Act provides that by 2030, Spain must achieve 42% penetration of renewable energy in its final energy consumption and an electricity system with at least 74% of generation from renewable sources.

The key provisions of the Decree are as follows:

1. Corresponding to environmental permitting, there are fast-track provisions regarding Spain's Prior Administrative Authorisation procedure (AAP), the first step of regulatory permitting. Developers must show their project plans pose no threat of unacceptable impact on the environment.

(a) The scope of the application process covers wind and PV renewable generation projects that meet the following requirements:  
  • The AAP is under the competence of Central State Administration (i.e. for projects >50MW). Nevertheless, regional authorities may apply the procedure to projects under their competence, if they decided to do.
  • Has been granted the rights to access and grid connection.
  • Involves evacuation lines with a voltage of less than 220 kV and a length of less than 15km, unless they run entirely underground through urbanised land, as do their associated substations.
  • Has installed capacity of not more than 75 MW (wind energy) or 150 MW (PV).
  • Is not located in the marine environment (meaning no floating offshore wind (FOW) projects will benefit from this fast-track procedure).
  • Is not located in any Red Natura 2000 conservation areas.
  • Is located entirely in areas of low environmental sensitivity according to the "Environmental zoning for the implementation of renewable energies".
(b) These projects will be subject to a preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure to determine whether they should be subject to a formal EIA procedure. The application of this procedure must be requested before 31 December 2024.

(c) The administrative records corresponding to projects located in areas of low and moderate sensitivity according to the "Environmental zoning for the implementation of renewable energies", will have priority in the processing of applications.

(d) The reduction of administrative deadlines shall apply.

(e) Applications will be processed cumulatively to the prior administrative and construction authorisations and the declaration of public interest (DUP) (relevant for the purpose of expropriating, as a matter of urgency, the property and rights required for the installation and its connection infrastructure).

(f) The granting of concessions in the public water domain (reservoirs, lakes, canals and hydraulic works, etc.) for the installation of floating PV plants, with a duration not exceeding 25 years, is regulated.  
  1. Regarding access and grid connection, the Decree sets out the following measures.

(a) Suspension of procedures for the issuance of access permits. The First Transitional Provision of Royal Decree Law 6/2022 establishes that the TSO (REE) must carry out a reassessment of available capacities within two months following the publication of the new capacity in the Official Gazette (the new Grid Planification 2020-2026 was approved on 22 March 2022). During this period, the procedures for granting access to the transmission grid will be suspended, as well as the issuance of the acceptability report required for granting access to the distribution grid when there is an influence on the transmission grid.

(b) Release of capacity at connection nodes for the promotion of a certain type of self-consumption, to be allocated following general time priority criteria.

(c) Public tender of capacity:
  • New criteria are added regarding the impact on the economic activity of the area, and project appraisal research and development (R&D)
  • Part of the capacity can be reserved for self=consumption installations to be awarded in the same public tender.
  • The deadline for the call for the tenders is extended, regulating the use of excess capacity, if any.

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