The National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) has in its hands the future of Ekienea, the largest photovoltaic solar park project in the Basque Country, which is set to triple its renewable generation capacity. Located in Lacorzana (Álava), it will reach an installed electrical power of 100 megawatts (MW)
Ekienea is a project promoted by the Basque Government, which participates in its shareholding with a 20% contribution from the Basque Energy Entity. It has been precisely this administration that has submitted a dispute to the CNMC to decide who has the power to grant access capacity to the electricity grid, after Redeia (former Red Eléctrica) initially authorized the connection, subsequently stopped by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, since permits for a plant of that size must receive its approval.
The other owners of the plant are Iberdrola, with 75% of the shares, and LKS Krean, belonging to the Mondragón Group, with 5%. The Provincial Council of Álava also participates, which acquired a minority part of the public capital. The Basque Government included this park in its strategy to decarbonize the economy, and accelerated its administrative processing after declaring it a project of public and social interest.
A purely bureaucratic delay
Its construction should have started this year, but the discrepancies between the parties involved have moved the construction plans to 2023. Redeia, which according to sources familiar with the project “was wrong” when authorizing this access to the network, limits itself to answering the problem is “pending resolution by the CNMC”, with which they claim to have “collaborated at all times”.
For parks with more than 50 MW of power, it is the Ministry of Ecological Transition who decides whether to grant access to these connection points. As this newspaper has learned, Teresa Ribera’s department annulled the request made by Ekienea, a decision that the Basque Government appealed to the CNMC and with which, so far, it has managed to use its arbitration to change its status to simply ” suspended”.
According to experts in the sector consulted by La Información, connections to the network must be made after being awarded in a public tender, or through priority, which is accessed according to interest shown. Ekienea, as confirmed by project sources, will be directly connected to the iDE (Iberdrola Distribución) distribution network, specifically to the Puentelarrá transformer substation, where it already has reserved capacity. The plant has also secured the land and the urban and environmental permits necessary for its construction and start-up.
The only large viable plant in the Basque Country
The resolution of the CNMC, on the other hand, goes through determining if it works with the ‘ok’ of the Basque Government or if it is up to the Ministry to grant this access, as it already does with many other plants distributed throughout the territory. In any case, he will amend Redeia’s decision, and he will be in charge of sitting down without precedent that will allow the Basque Government to replicate these authorizations.
Although to do so it will have to overcome important obstacles: first, the lack of land to install this type of plant -only viable in certain areas of Álava-; and on the other hand, the political veto of Bildu, who maintains his rejection of the implementation of wind power plants in the Basque Autonomous Community, something that already meant the end of the “Eólicas de Euskadi” project that Iberdrola took advantage of promoting. The Basque electricity network, on the other hand, has sufficient capacity available both for this project and for others, since it is prepared to supply the large industry located there.
The usual 100 MW of power that the Ekienea photovoltaic plant will produce can be expanded to 135 MW at times of greatest demand, capable of satisfying the annual consumption of 160,000 inhabitants, half of the population of Álava. The park will occupy 200 hectares, of which 100 will go to the plant and another 100 to environmental compensation and had. Construction is expected to create up to 300 jobs at peak times.