The Council of Ministers plans to address this Friday the return to the electricity companies of the hydraulic canon that the PP Government approved in 2015 and that the Supreme Court annulled in April, according to government sources.
The Country advances that the Executive finalizes an agreement to apply the contingency fund of the General State Budgets for an amount of 1,908 million euros that will go to account of the public deficit of 2021. The figure is much higher than the 1,400 million that the third vice president advanced in August and Minister for the Ecological Transition, Ribera, and far surpasses the hole left by the failed Castor gas depot.
The return is to be addressed on the day that the megawatt hour (MWh) in the wholesale electricity market breaks a new historical record due to the exponential rise in gas natural and after the European summit in which the leaders of the EU have been unable to agree on conclusions to tackle the energy crisis. Last summer, when the electricity pool began to set records, Ribera put that fee as an example of the risks of legislating in hot water to solve complex problems, a few weeks before the Government approved a decree-law to apply a drastic cut to electricity companies that then had to correct.
Already in September, Ecological Transition estimated at more than 1,624 million the collected by this canon between 2013 and 2020. But that figure was provisional and did not include this year's items, nor the costs that the different hydrographic confederations had incurred for the liquidation of the lien, nor the accrued interests. At the time, the PP justified this fee as a measure to embed the so-called tariff deficit in the electricity sector (difference between income and regulated costs).
Finally, more than 1,900 million will have to be returned by the Public Treasury, which will be distributed by operators such as Iberdrola, Endesa, Naturgy and Acciona, to name the most relevant. Only for the first four years, from 2013 to 2016, Iberdrola, the company that benefited the most from the Supreme Court ruling because it controls half of the hydroelectric power in Spain, received an "extraordinary effect" of 417 million euros in their accounts of the period January-September. For its part, Endesa had claimed another 48 million euros until September just for the first two years.
The fee for the use of inland waters levies 25.5% on the turnover for the production of plants with a capacity of at least 50 MW. It was launched by the then Minister of Industry, José Manuel Soria, to tackle (as announced at the time) the multimillion-dollar tariff deficit, although the electricity system does not receive what it collects, which goes to the Public Treasury.
When the Supreme Court ruling was released, the refund was estimated at about 500 million, but the final figure will be much higher. And it is that the High Court did not annul the canon as such, but its retroactive nature (the years 2013 and 2014). And not only that: it also decreed that the Hydrographic Confederations (in charge of collecting it) cannot claim it from those concessions whose holders do not expressly give their approval because the Public Hydraulic Domain Regulation indicates that a concession can be modified only "if the petitioner accepts the proposed conditions ", which did not happen.
The utilities tried to knock down the canon in the Court of Justice of the EU, which endorsed its nature as an environmental tax. But the European court did not enter into whether or not it contravened other Spanish regulations, as the Supreme Court has finally recognized. The High Court upheld an appeal from Unesa, the employer's association renamed Aelec a few years ago, and which for more than 20 years has had the state attorney on leave of absence Pascual Sala Atienza, son of the jurist Pascual Sala Sánchez, former president of the Supreme Court, the General Council of the Judiciary and the Constitutional Court.