Spain had one of the world's most ambitious — and generous — plans to boost the amount of electricity it generates from the sun. That dream, for the solar industry at least, has turned sour.
Just days before Christmas, the government slashed the level of subsidies that all new and existing photovoltaic (PV) solar projects will receive. But even the powerful utility companies, who opposed the solar industry, are now warning that the fallout could be long-lasting and reach far beyond the energy sector.
The row has pitted the renewable lobby against Spain's three biggest utilities — Iberdrola, Endesa and Gas Natural — which have been urging the government to take action to stem the wave of subsidised renewable projects being built, particularly solar ones.
Carlos Salle, Iberdrola's director for regulation, told the Guardian that divisions between the renewable lobby and the rest of the energy industry are even deeper in Spain than elsewhere as a result. "We have more controversy here in Spain with renewables against non-renewables ... this is an aspect of our system — it provokes problems."
Another Madrid-based businessman, from one of Spain's leading companies, was franker, likening relations, only half-jokingly, as a "war." The Asociación de la Industria Fotovoltaica (Asif), Spain's solar industry body, accuses politicians of telling lies, exaggerating the costs of generating electricity using solar PV to justify the cut in subsidies.
It is more than just bragging rights between rival generators at stake.