In just six months, the Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera (Madrid, 1969), has taken forward a royal decree law of urgent measures to alleviate the increases in electricity prices, develop the social bond or eliminate the so-called sun tax. The jurist, who was Secretary of State for Climate Change with the Government of Rodríguez Zapatero and, as of 2014, director of the Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations, based in Paris, has also prepared a first draft of what will be the future Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition. This will be specified in the Energy and Climate Plan that his ministry will send to Brussels before the end of the year. In addition, it has reinstated the power of the CNMC, which was stolen by the Executive of the PP, to fix the regulated tariffs for electricity and natural gas, with which the supervisor will be released in January.
Question: His ministry has announced the draft of the Climate Change Law. The text is very summary, vague, with very long-term measures, such as the prohibition to sell combustion engine vehicles from 2024.
Answer: With regard to climate there is an approach that is not very usual in ordinary legislative technique and is, basically, to establish the obligation that must inform all the transversal action of public and private actors. If we propose prohibitions, limitations or obligations in the very short term you can lose perspective or screw up because you will always have pressures. Setting a deadline allows you to build a path without deviations. I know that this is shocking and we have seen it in the discussion, absurd in my opinion, about the limitations on vehicles without zero emissions or why now introduce reduction obligations of 2030 or 2050. Saying what you have to do for tomorrow generates more confusion and we lose perspective. In addition, we propose a viable calendar that, although demanding, generates opportunities. The path of 2030 will mean a significant reduction working on what is more mature: the electricity sector or mobility. We can not go further.
P: Will that inconcretion be resolved with the plan that will be sent to Brussels in December?
R: Yes. The framework standard is completed with the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan and the Just Transition Strategy. We have to adjust some issues, for example, on the prohibition of subsidizing fossil fuels; in the case of the transport of goods in trucks, it will be necessary to accompany the passage of gasoline to gas, because there is not much alternative. It will also be necessary to modulate the professional diesel of farmers and fishermen.
P: What measures does the plan include?
R: They will be proposals of great importance, with a very important level of detail in matters of R & D, taxation, infrastructure planning or prospective prices of fossil fuels. The electric sector will be the great tractor vehicle of decarbonisation and, therefore, there will be large investments in efficiency, rehabilitation and mobility. It will be a very important mobilization of resources and employment. The previous government did not use money from the Budgets and this has caught us with our feet changed. Public funds and incentives and a fiscal signal are needed to discriminate what you want to promote and what you want to avoid and build trust.
P: What does this Hacienda say?
R: She is very motivated. The Government knows that this plan is one of the most important variables in the modernization of the economy. The energy transition will update the industrial sector and will be capital to build the foundations of a 21st century fiscal system.
P: In view of the disagreement between the holders of Almaraz (Endesa, Iberdrola and Naturgy) on the extension of their useful life, it seems that it will be the companies and not the government that will close the nuclear ones.
R: Here no one is absolutely right; We, as counselors, have to talk to them. What is striking is the difference between the arguments of a company like Iberdrola, which says that the accounts do not come out from the point of view of the rating of its debt or the resources it should mobilize to continue operating, and Endesa, which considers that Nuclear is an important business, which is willing to maintain it, but if it requires more investment, the system has to pay for it. There are paradoxes: Almaraz is owned by three very different energetics and the next one on the list, Cofrentes, is from only one company, Iberdrola, which seems to have very clear what it wants to do.
P: Will the Government authorize, where appropriate, the closure of these plants?
R: You have to have a general policy vision and have the limits and deadlines imposed by the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN). For now, unless we apply something similar to the Nadal decree [el exministro de Energía quiso impedir por ley el cierre unilateral de plantas] It is difficult to restrict the freedom of a proprietor who wants to close, unless the supply is in danger, because there is a collective interest that goes beyond the vicissitudes of each one. But governing sablazo is an outrage because it does not help either, and if it was so important, why did not he expropriate them?
P: Therefore, they may prohibit the closure.
R: Only if the security of supply is put at risk could the limitations of the Community framework to prevent it be applied. It will have to be seen in each case.
P: But you can not force a company to work at a loss.
R: If there is a real concrete problem, within the community framework, it would be necessary to see who covers the costs.
P: Assuming that the entire nuclear park is closed in the next decade, will companies be forced, as Álvaro Nadal wanted, to pay for the dismantling, in view of the deficit of the Enresa fund?
R: But was not the nuclear one so cheap? Now it turns out that there is an important hole to manage its dismantling. It is a serious error of planning, of fiscal signal, of cost, that has gone in benefit of the owners of the plants and his distribution of dividend. Now we must see if that is incorporated or not as one of the obligations at the time of closure. Another question is what is the most efficient in terms of taking advantage of what is already there, if it is sustainable for the economy and compatible with the security of supply and the environment. It is difficult that the dismantling can be done at once, it must be managed responsibly and see how many can be accumulated at the same time. The capacity and predictability of the security conditions we have today and those that may come in the medium and long term leads to a much more nuanced debate: if it is cheaper to close today or within 10 or 15 years, or how to do it in security conditions. I regret that Nadal, instead of launching this threat to companies at the last minute, had not improved the fund with the contribution of each megawatt sold. If from the arrival of Mariano Rajoy to the Government, in 2011, measures had been taken, now everything would be much easier and the fund of Enresa would be better equipped. It is not good to solve it with a pulse or with a saber.
P: It is very critical with the lack of foresight of the previous Government.
R: Cases as relevant as the closing dates of mining or thermal power plants were letters that had to be distributed between 2018 and 2019, and not even half of the deck had been distributed, so the hot potato has gone forward. A level of irresponsibility so relevant now forces us to go against the clock on all fronts. I am struck by the elevated tone of voice of many who wonder why this ministry wants to do everything at once. Listen, you forgive, because they had 10 years to do it and they had not done anything. They had limited themselves to restricting, limiting and delaying the new, to prohibit everything without dialogue, and now everything on the calendar falls on us.
P: How are the negotiations to restore the powers to the CNMC that stole the previous Government and that has given Spain the opening of the European Commission's file?
R: Fixing that conflict was the first message I received from the Energy Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, two days after taking office, and gave us a deadline until the end of the year. And this is what we have done: we set up a working group to establish a functioning scheme that respects the community framework. Although closer to the Anglo-Saxon culture than to the Mediterranean, the model of independent regulators has been generalized in Europe and enough years have passed for this scheme to be applied in Spain.
P: Who will then elaborate the tolls for electricity and gas that take effect in January?
R: These rates will already correspond to the independent regulator. This was one of the most absurd institutional issues: you will be able to discuss how far you can go, but not to get enroled, as Nadal did. His argument was: if the price of light rises, people show up at my door and not before the CNMC, so I'll fix it. The calculation of the rates must be done by independent technicians, although with a fluid dialogue with the Government, taking into account the orientation of the energy policy and which fits well with the legislator.
P: In the budget pact signed between the Government and Podemos, for the first time, was written in public commitment to end the so-called windfall profit, or the alleged over-compensation charged by hydraulics and nuclear pool. The proposal put an end to the idyll of the president of Iberdrola, Ignacio Galán, with this ministry.
R: Beyond the debate on whether windfall profit exists or not [beneficio llovido del cielo] or if the plants are amortized, the protagonists of the electricity sector must assume that they are essential in the transition process and facilitate it. This requires that this great business that will continue to grow, such as the sale of electricity, be well perceived by users. I would not like to be the CEO of a company that feels cheated. It will be true or not, but there is a problem of public perception and that is what we can translate with a proposal that deserves special attention.
P: Why the users have to support the increase of prices of the CO2 that benefits to the hydraulics and the nuclear?
R: It is necessary to see to what extent the price signal of the emission rights that the EU wants can be computed by certain investors, who did not include it in their investment costs, but who see improving their profit margin in a marginal market and without a real liberalization. It is necessary to facilitate a distribution of this over-compensation to cover public needs, such as the reduction of the invoice or facilitate the transition. We are seeing formulas.
P: For the first time, an Energy Manager is responsible for continental waters. Is this an advantage for the citizen?
R: Water and energy are the two cross-cutting issues that generate more emotions and, at times, more contradictory interests. There are related elements, such as storage, pumping or hydroelectric concessions that we are going to analyze. As the concessions expire, we are seeing if we recover masses of water, when the river is confined upstream and it makes little economic sense or to take them out to tender in other conditions. When dealing with the exclusive use of a good in the public domain, maybe you have to create a stock market that allows you to keep a price assessed for certain consumers.
P: A public stock exchange?
R: Or in a private operation where the statement of price condition is established. There is another public function to keep in mind: storage. That for every renewable megawatt you need another thermal back up I consider it absurd. What I have to see is what storage capacity I have: the network itself will act as such and, in any case, I have the water, which can be an instrument to maximize the benefit in pumping. In addition, you have to be more transparent. It is surprising that it is not known who and under what conditions they were awarded. You have to share that information to which sometimes the hydrographic confederations or the system operator do not have access to the details.
P: Endesa will close its two coal plants in Compostilla and Teruel. Is it an opportunity to demonstrate what this just transition means?
R: We have told companies that people can not be left with one hand in front and another in the back. The just transition in the closing of the private coal mining has already materialized, without burning tires, confinements or tensions. Something emotionally important because they are people who were going to stay in 2018. To the companies we say that as long as they do not leave the activity nor the country, it is good that they think how to continue in the territory. They must participate in the industrial recovery of the affected regions, which will also require public investment.
P: One of the most important measures that it has approved is the disappearance of the sun tax. Some people criticize that the small users will pay the cost of the networks of those who can place the plates.
R: I would have liked that those who worry now about what the small consumer pays would have done a few years ago, when there were very different rates between industrial and domestic and in the social bonus the variable was not income. Well-managed self-consumption can benefit the vulnerable. A crash plan is needed for isolated buildings or bonuses for efficiency and in communities.
P: Will the government keep the 7% exemption for the generation, which it approved for half a year, or will it be only for the winter?
R: We have set up a taxation work group with the Treasury. We did not want to eliminate anything without having clear which is the best scheme, since there is a crossed, contradictory taxation and different collecting administrations. We can conclude that we have to eliminate a few taxes and that only the generation remains.
P: Have the prices of electricity dropped after the October measures?
R: There was a sharp fall in the European electricity markets after the validation of the royal decree law: a 3% reduction in the three-month markets that has been maintained. It is an important signal, but we know that the peaks occur after Christmas and we need a greater perspective, considering that the interconnection exists and that the prices in France and Belgium point to the rise
P: What does your ministry plan for cogenerators?
R: We have to talk to them. Cogeneration is a highly efficient option, but projected at 20 years is not the most efficient. It must be accompanied by a process that allows the plants to have favorable treatment for a few years. The renovation can not be a new plant the size of the current one.
P: How do you see the Alcoa crisis? What is the statute of the big consumer?
R: Alcoa has not attributed its crises to energy prices and data shows that. It is a problem of your business strategy; Apparently, there are buyers willing to buy and they are reluctant to sell. The European Commission has been saying for a long time that the mechanisms to support the price of energy are State aid. We have managed interruption auctions for a period, but the best solution is a statute for the whole electro-intensive industry common throughout Europe so that there are no distortions in the market. It is about subsidizing with a scheme of State aid with the commitment of the industry to invest so that its processes achieve maximum efficiency in energy consumption and innovation. Meanwhile, there will be two interruptibility auctions.
On the poisoned inheritance of the dozens of international arbitrations against the cut of the renewables of the energy reform of Mariano Rajoy, which is causing the permanent trickle of condemnatory awards against Spain (for 400 million), the holder of Transition Energy believes that it is the result "of a terrible political decision and a terrible legal strategy, with significant economic consequences, not only for the economic cost, but because we are plagued for the energy investor in the OECD".
Teresa Ribera says categorically that "you have to solve it yes or yes". And as, "obviously, we can not return to the origin, we will have to give updated answers to this moment". This means "that we have to find answers in the current regulatory framework", because, "in the corresponding filibuster, we see that the arbitrators stress that there were no departures or smooth paths to cushion the retroactive effect of the measure"; that national investors were left behind and that the EC says they are State aid. Ribera believes that it is not possible to "mobilize the very important volume of resources planned to modernize the economy, while this is pending".
The Minister for the Ecological Transition, who confirms to CincoDías that her ministry will respect the proposed methodology of retribution that the CNMC has proposed for renewable energies and electricity grids as of 2020 (the second regulatory period that established the 2013 reform) , refers to an improvement in the legal security of the regulation of the sector as a possible antidote against future awards.
At this point, points to the amendment to the General State Budget of 2018 presented by UPN, which, finally, the Congress table controlled by the PP rejected invoking the budget veto. In this amendment, the Navarre training proposed that to the renewable installations prior to the reform, profitability would not be modified in the new regulatory period. Ribera defends the content of said amendment as one of the ways to "maintain the stability of a reasonable return".
- Nuclear cemetery. To the question of whether this Government, which has promised to close the nuclear park in a decade, will promote the construction of the Centralized Temporary Storage (ATC) of radioactive waste, Teresa Ribera comments that this is a question "that must be managed with full responsibility" and that "it is fundamental to recover the idea of having one or several ATC, quickly", although "the favorite option is to have only one".
- Bad management. And, despite the fact that two plants already have their own Individualized Temporary Warehouse and that there are three others planned, Ribera believes that these facilities are "too temporary". The minister says that "the opportunity for the location accepted by society has been lost" and criticizes the management of Villar de Cañas. "From the point of view of social sensitivity, it was so bad that we are in an impasse, difficult to solve".
- New plan "We are studying with Enresa the different scenarios that should appear in a new National Radioactive Waste Plan [el último data de 2006], and I think we have to quickly recover the project. " In the authorization process of the ATC, criticizes Ribera, "the reports of the CSN have been counterbalanced with the authorization of each of the phases by the Ministry of Energy, and since some of these phases were missed, those of the Council were accumulating. of Nuclear Safety (CSN). Whereupon this, instead of doing its function of offering security with respect to energy planning, prejudged what had to happen ".