After knowing the intention of Alcoa of closing two of its three factories in Spain (those of Avilés and La Coruña) and dismissing all its employees, 317 and 369, respectively, the Government reacted yesterday revealing that the US multinational has received aid in the electricity bill for 1,000 million in the last decade. It is not exactly a public aid, because it does not come out of the state coffers, but a discount on the rate that the large industry receives, and which the rest of users pay, in exchange for the interruptibility service. The companies that offer it modulate their production according to the needs of the operator, REE, which can also cut off their supply.
The Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, stated that, indeed, Alcoa plants in Spain have taken 30% of an incentive each year that is under the lens of Brussels and that this year has been cut by 40% compared to 2017 (316 million against 525 million ) and it is less than half that in 2013 (see graphic).
The announcement of the colossus of aluminum has returned to ring the blackmail that already starred in 2014, when he took the first steps to close their two old plants after being out of the interruptibility auction held for the first time that year. However, on this occasion, Alcoa has not appealed to the cost of energy as the main reason for the shelving, but to other structural type, such as the strong Chinese competition, modern and efficient factories or the increase in the price of raw materials . Between this year and the past the two factories in question They have lost 100 million euros.
Alcoa knows the process that Alcoa has thrown away the towel, in view of the limited margin that Brussels allows the Government to help via tariff to the big industry. As much as Alcoa has been the beneficiary of a third of the incentive, it has been limited by the European Commission to 270 million annually, more than Italy. In addition, there is an increasing number of plants that go to auctions, over a hundred.
Gone are the good years in which the five largest Spanish industrial facilities responsible for almost 20% of total electricity demand (owned by ArcelorMittal, Asturiana de Zinc or Alcoa) benefited from a minimum tariff (the so-called G-4) that financed the rest of the system (domestic users paid 20 times more than those for the kWh). As a result of the privatization in 1988 of the public group Inespal, owner of these plants, Alcoa agreed with the SEPI to help obtain good prices for electricity.
Following the European regulations that put an end to regulated industry tariffs in 2007, the government opted to sign contracts for a controversial interruptibility service to maintain support for the electrointensive industry, but to which smaller ones were added. Already in 2014, pressured by Brussels, the Government of Mariano Rajoy He devised an auction mechanism with which he redistributed a waning incentive among many more facilities.
The large companies also lament the scarce compensation they receive for the cost of CO2 emission rights. A budget line of between 6 and 7 million euros, which, for next year, is in the air, as the Budget Law itself.
The Ministries of Industry and Ecological Transition have put to work to try to stop a crisis that can escape from their hands. Although reference has been made to the possibility that some investors can buy the plants of Avilés and La Coruña, Alcoa already put them on sale for the time being and did not receive any offers.
After Alcoa elanuncio, Minister Ribera raised yesterday the possibility of "Rethink" the next auction of interruptability, scheduled for November. "Maybe this makes us delay the call to avoid a distortion and can benefit others if they decide to finally close", referring to a distribution of the incentive without including these factories. "They knew it and it was designed to favor the largest companies in the first instance," said the minister, who criticized the surprise of the announcement.
The president of Asturias, Javier Fernández, yesterday requested a meeting with the ministers of Ecological Transition and Industry, Teresa Ribera and Reyes Maroto, together with his counterpart from the Xunta, Alberto Núñez Feijóoo, to ask them to "act" before the decision of Alcoa to close its Avilés and La Coruña plants.
"We do not agree with the fund or the company's forms," said Fernandez, who considered that the administrations should promote actions to redirect a situation that, if confirmed, would be "lethal" for Avilés and La Coruña, which would lose almost 700 jobs.
Fernandez pointed out that until now the company had not stated that it was "insufficient" the bonus it received to lower energy costs through interruptible auctions.
Fernandez asked "not to elucubrate" on the possibility that the criteria announced by the Government to accelerate the process of energy transition and the decarbonization of the economy have influenced the closure announced by Alcoa. The Avilés and La Coruña are the smallest factories of the multinational, which has a workforce of 70,000 employees around the world.