Spain's electricity transmission system operator Red Electrica de España has started to turn down numerous gigawatts of potential renewable projects amid an overwhelming number of applications.
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The TSO said in a note Monday that as of June 30 it had turned down 26.3 GW of applications for which it had been "unable to allow permission."
The reasons behind refusal to connect were a "lack of capacity at the requested node, or because [grid] access has been requested at a substation which is unplanned."
According to Spanish press reports, the total includes 5.8 GW of wind capacity and 20.5 GW of solar PV capacity.
According to region-by-region data from the operator, of 110 400-kV transmission nodes on the Spanish high voltage network, 77 are already either in a state of saturation due to "existing capacity and capacity that already has access permits," or saturation is expected under existing permits and permits already in process.
In certain areas with more abundant solar resources, such as Castile La Mancha and Madrid, there was no more capacity available for solar PV connections as of June, the data showed.
Renewable asset development in Spain can be defined in three stages: the first is to obtain permission for grid access, the second is to obtain a connection agreement and the third is construction and operation.
Spain currently has 28.5 GW of wind and solar PV in operation, of which 23.5 GW wind and 5.1 GW solar PV.
A further 62.9 GW already has access permits but not yet operational.
This includes 43.6 of solar PV capacity and 18.8 GW of wind.
A further 84.4 GW has been requested but have no access permits.
The deluge of applications goes way beyond the country's current planning under its National Climate and Energy Planfor 2030, under which Spain has a target of 8.4 GW of solar PV in place by 2020, rising to 23.4 GW by 2025 and 36.9 GW by 2030.
Wind capacity is due to increase to 28 GW in 2020, 40.2 GW in 2025 and 50.3 GW in 2030.
The overwhelming demand for connections has led to a secondary market for grid rights.
According to a report in newspaper Expansion, the secondary market has few clear rules and rising prices, partly due to speculators obtaining permits without the corresponding capacity and in some cases, in locations where there is no infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Spain's CNCM regulator is overseeing the possible auctioning of connection points at sites where nuclear and coal plants are due for closure.
A new investment scenario is under proposal covering grid spending for the 2021-26 period. This could open up new possibilities to develop the grid to accommodate more renewables via improved connections and substations.
-- Gianluca Baratti, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Jonathan Fox, email@example.com