It is well known that the health crisis caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 virus led the government to decree a state of alarm in March and other very severe measures throughout the country. This was extended beyond three months and have led to a global economic crisis that must be tackled by adopting measures to "alleviate" the effects of the pandemic on those sectors that have been particularly hard hit.
In this context, it was considered appropriate to approve Decree-Law 15/2020 of 10 September on urgent measures to promote the primary, energy, tourism and territorial sectors in the Canary Islands (hereinafter the "Decree-Law"). It is being processed as a matter of urgency since neither the health crisis has disappeared nor its social and economic consequences.
In particular, with regard to the energy sector, as it is considered a key sector in the economic recovery of this region, measures are being introduced to promote and implement renewable energies, self-consumption and energy improvement of existing facilities and buildings. Law 11/1997, of 2 December 1997, on the Regulation of the Canary Islands Electricity Sector (hereinafter "Law 11/1997") has also been amended to speed up and make the implementation of electrical installations in general more efficient and of great strategic importance. In particular, the following are among the main measures approved in the energy sector:
- Reduction of time frames in the authorisation procedures for electrical installations. The urgency of processing procedures for granting the authorisations provided for in the Regulation regulating the administrative procedures relating to the execution and commissioning of electrical installations in the Canary Islands approved by Decree 141/2009 of 10 November (hereinafter "Decree 141/2009") has been declared and reduced by half. This emergency will last for two years from the date of entry into force of the Decree Law. The declaration of urgency also extends to incidental regional environmental impact assessment procedures and the consultation period established in Law 11/1997. This reduction of time periods may be overridden by the body responsible for taking a decision where exceptional reasons of public interest make this inadvisable and a second reduction of time periods cannot be agreed on grounds of urgency. This reduction in time periods will apply to projects beginning at the entry into force of the Decree-Law. However, they will not apply to specific procedures already started at that date.
- Conformity of the authorisation applications with the current planning. Applications for authorisation relating to the execution and commissioning of electrical installations, including requests for substantial modifications, must include a justification of the conformity or non-conformity of the project with island, territorial, urban and Protected Natural Space planning. In the process of consulting other administrations and public bodies about applications for administrative authorisations, it is required to transfer the application to the corresponding town council so that it can issue a report on whether or not the project in question complies with current urban planning. This is without detriment effects to other consultations that must be made. The expressly favourable ruling in this sense will exempt one from the obtaining of a town planning licence and, therefore, the title equivalent to this title will be the substantive energy authorisation. This compatibility analysis will be applicable to applications presented from the date of entry into force of the Decree Law.
- Presentation of technical documentation in digital format. The technical documentation must be submitted in digital format, without the need to provide copies.
- Substantial non-relevant modifications to authorised installations for the generation of electricity from renewable sources that are in operation. The following are considered to be substantial, non-relevant modifications to installations for the generation of electricity from renewable sources that have prior administrative authorisation: "The changes in technology introduced during the execution phase of the project in the elements that make up the electricity production units and the incorporation of electricity storage systems, provided that the actions do not involve an increase in the surface area affected and/or modification of the medium or high voltage electricity infrastructures initially authorised". When processing these modifications, the administration will request a report from the environmental authority on their scope and compatibility with the installation that was originally authorised. In the event that the modifications are compatible with the initial environmental report, the competent energy body may issue the corresponding resolution for administrative authorisation of modifications without the need for further formalities. This regime will apply to applications submitted after the entry into force of the Decree-Law or to those already submitted whenever requested by the relevant promoter.
- New transitional regime for the administrative regularisation of low-voltage electrical installations in operation. Installations which, for various reasons such as transfers of assets between companies, did not have the operating authorisation may be regularised provided that the owner submits prior notification within two years from the entry into force of the Decree-Law.
- Specific specifications for penalty inspections. Article 20.3 of Decree 141/2009 has been modified. The expression "serious defects" that could be detected during inspections of electrical installations has been replaced by the expression "serious risk" as it is more in line with the penalty regime of the basic legislation.
The measures described should contribute to the implementation of energy projects in the Canary Islands since they serve to simplify the administrative processing of these projects. For this reason is why in many cases promoters are not encouraged to promote projects of this type or even abandon projects that have already begun. Some of the measures included in this regulation, due to their nature, are temporary and others, on the other hand, are designed to be permanent.