On 2 August 2022 Spain's Official State Journal (Boletín Oficial del Estado, or BOE) published Royal Decree-law 14/2022, of 1 August, on economic sustainability measures related to transport, scholarships and grants, as well as measures related to energy efficiency and saving and to reduce power dependence on natural gas (RDL 14/2022). RDL 14/2022 entered into effect (except for certain provisions that are not relevant from the perspective of this note) on the same date on which it was published.
RDL 14/2022 contains provisions related to the energy sector that, although not highly significant, will be analysed below (provisions related to lighting and air conditioning in certain buildings are not discussed):
The processing of electricity transmission and distribution facilities
RDL 14/2022 makes a number of amendments to Royal Decree 1955/2000, of 1 December, which regulates the transmission, distribution, commercialisation, supply and procedures for the authorisation of electricity facilities ("RD 1955/2000") aimed at simplifying the processing of electricity transmission and distribution facilities. Specifically:
- It establishes that transmission facilities that may be classified as singular facilities1 may start processing even when a decision has not been issued by the National Markets and Competition Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia, or CNMC) acknowledging their classification as such. However, they will not be awarded prior administrative authorisation until that decision is issued.
- It is established that, during the course of the procedure for authorising transmission facilities pursued by the sole transmissioner (REE), the CNMC must issue its report within 15 days; otherwise it will be understood that the CNMC's decision is favourable.
- A new paragraph is added to article 115.2 RD 1955/2000, defining certain scenarios where modifications made to transmission and distribution facilities that have already obtained prior administrative authorisation will be exempted from obtaining a new prior administrative authorisation and may directly obtain a construction permit2.
RDL 24/2022 contains measures related to electricity storage. Specifically, it amends articles 4.1.c) and 49.1 of Royal Decree 413/2014, of 6 June, which regulates the production of electricity from renewable sources, co-generation and waste ("RD 413/2014"), on two counts:
- On the one hand, it specifies3 that it is possible to hybridise generation facilities entitled to receive the specific remuneration with storage facilities.
- On the other, it clarifies that, in such an event, separate metering equipment must be installed – otherwise there would be a risk of forfeiting the specific remuneration.
In addition, an amendment is made to Annex II of RD 1955/2000 to establish in relation to hydroelectric facilities (to encourage their modernisation and the use of pumping) that the following will not be understood as constituting a change of technology (so that the facility can continue to be considered as the same facility and, therefore, may be modified by updating its current grid access permit without having to apply for a new one): "the addition of electronic power systems in hydropower generation facilities that are already in service provided that the inclusion thereof allows for reverse-pumping".
RDL 14/2022 amends Royal Decree 244/2019, of 5 April, which regulates the administrative, technical and economic conditions applicable to the self-consumption of electricity, as follows:
- On the one hand, it reduces the minimum permanence period in each type of self-consumption (with and without surplus) from one year to four months.
- On the other hand, it establishes that, in the case of low-voltage self-consumption facilities (up to 100 kW) that feed surplus production into the grid, self-consumption must be applied4 within two months. Therefore, if that term is exceeded for causes not attributable to the consumer or public authorities responsible for energy, the electricity supplier will automatically apply a discount on the consumer's bill for the delay in applying self-consumption to the electricity bill. The amount of the discount will be as stated in the provision and will be borne by the supplier or the distributor, depending on whom is responsible for the delay.
Budget contributions to the electricity system
RDL 14/2022 authorises a contribution of €1.36 billion from the General State Budget for 2022 to the electricity system to offset the reduced income caused by the temporary suspension of the Tax on the Production Value of Electricity (Impuesto del Valor de la Producción de Energía Eléctrica, or IVPEE) for year 2022.
Renewable gases (bio-methane, biogas, hydrogen)
Finally, RDL 14/2022 introduces certain measures aimed at simplifying the administrative process related with renewable gases. Specifically:
- It establishes that any modifications to connection points in the gas transmission or distribution network that are required to adapt the facilities to the injection of renewable gas, provided that they do not entail the insertion of a new sectioning valve to the main pipeline or a new gas pressure regulator station (estación de regulación de medida, or ERM/EM), will only require obtaining an operating permit, after the required safety conditions have been verified (thus, dispensation is given regarding the prior administrative authorisation and the approval of the project).
- An exemption is applied to the need for authorisation of all direct pipelines, thus amending article 55 of the Spanish Hydrocarbons Law 34/1998, of 7 October (LSH). Previously, that exemption applied to direct natural gas pipelines connecting a consumer with the gas system. Now the exemption applies without distinction and therefore also to direct pipelines connecting a renewable gas production plant with the gas system aimed at feeding gas into it5, which may now be built without needing to meet any requirements other than those related to the fulfilment of technical, safety and environmental provisions.
- An amendment is made to article 56 LSH to exclude renewable gas production plants from the concept of plants that manufacture gas fuels. This means that they will now be exempt from the system of authorisation and being subject to the planning criteria existing with regard to hydrocarbons.
- Article 12 bis is added to RD 1434/2002 to regulate the connection of renewable gas production plants with the gas transport or distribution networks. In essence, it establishes that: (i) the producers of renewable gasses that wish to connect to a gas transport or distribution network will send the gas transporter or distributor a request to connect to that network, indicating the foreseen flows and pressure at which the gas will be injected, as well as the foreseen quality of that gas; (ii) the gas transporters or distributors must answer within 40 working days, indicating the most suitable connection point, the technical conditions for the connection, the maximum admissible flow, the cost of making the connection and the timeline for performing it; (iii) the costs incurred in making the connection will in any event be borne by the requesting producer; (iv) any potential discrepancies may be referred to the CNMC (when the network connected to is the responsibility of the General State Administration) or the respective regional authority (otherwise), which must issue an answer within three months.