Tag Archives: SEER UPC

It’s an ill wind… that benefits the electricity companies

Alvaro Ok

Dr. Álvaro Luna

The winds of change indicate that the next government will repeal Royal Decree 900/2015, regulating the administrative, technical and economic conditions of methods of electricity supply based on self-consumption and production with self-consumption, so that it will never be applied. Nevertheless, the 8th of April has been and gone: the day that marked the end of the six-month moratorium established in the Decree. The Decree was the final bomb dropped in the last legislative session, characterised by hostile control of renewable energies. It is, as the saying goes, oœan ill wind that blows nobody any good… in this case, the electricity companies will stand to benefit.

The decree on self-consumption, which was described by the Spanish National Energy Commission (CNE) as “discriminatory” against renewable energies, not only affects the installation of new self-consumption systems, but also acts retroactively, so that self-consumption installations that were already legal must go through legalization procedures again, leading to further administrative costs, and costs derived from any required changes in the installation. In addition, since the draft bill first loomed over the sector in 2013, it has managed to generate fear and halt new initiatives.

TIME RAN OUT

Time ran out several weeks, or perhaps even months, ago for all those who have installations of this kind and had hoped for change in some of the political parties with seats in parliament. Clearly, in the political arena, renewable energies are no more than a photo at a world summit or four tweets, if that, during “Earth Hour”.

The renewable energy deficit is the most hackneyed tag line to justify the decree to tax renewable energy production, even when it is not fed into the grid. This tax is known as the ‘sun tax‘, given that it has the greatest impact on the photovoltaic sector. It is a formula supported by the main electricity companies to compensate for loss in consumption. However, such companies openly admit that they already charge for this concept in a fixed fee for contracted power included in electricity bills. Consequently, there is a difference in saving a watt via self-consumption or buying energy-saving lightbulbs.

In Spain today, a person who wishes to buy more efficient electrical appliances or change lightbulbs for ‘leds’, only needs to go to the shop to purchase them, something that everyone should do of course, as part of their social responsibility. In contrast, if you opt for a self-consumption system, you must obtain a report on the installation from an accredited company; request a point of connection to the grid from the company; obtain a technical study on the connection point; contract and pay for the tasks of adapting the line; obtain the appropriate installation licence, certificate of completion, official installation record and statement of responsibility; and apply to be included in the register… all in all, a real bureaucratic adventure.

Although it is true that renewable energies in Spain cover around 37% of demand, it is also true that almost 30% are from hydraulic power stations, which have to achieve a difficult balance between social and energy use of water. A country that does not have its own energy resources and that, due to its geographic situation, has a low level of interconnection with other countries must optimise its production of renewable energies. Furthermore, it cannot turn its back on self-consumption, which makes the end user an active participant who will be more aware of energy in all respects.

DROP IN COSTS

Nevertheless, I am convinced that self-consumption based on renewable energies will survive after the Royal Decree. A similar situation to that found after the withdrawal of bonuses in 2007 will occur. This led to a sharp drop in the installation of renewable energy systems, which picked up again as costs gradually fell. Accordingly, in a few years’ time, the ‘sun tax’ will have less of an impact on the recovery of investments in self-consumption, as the price of photovoltaic panels, and that of the electronic systems required to connect them, is decreasing constantly.

Until then, Spanish companies will have to continue to look to other countries in which this sector is considered strategic, and make a huge effort not to lose a technology race in which others have been several steps ahead for a long time.

Dr. Álvaro Luna
Researcher at SEER UPC and Professor on the Terrassa Campus,
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC),

Published in ElPeriódico de Catalunya on April 29 2016

The importance of research rankings

Pedro Rodríguez, director of SEER UPC

At the beginning of the year, several rankings have been published that analyze innovative activity at all levels. They have revealed that the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya·BarcelonaTech (UPC) tops the ranking of technical universities in terms of scientific output and productivity, and that South Korea, Germany and Switzerland are on the pedestal of innovation, at global level, according to Bloomberg.

These are two examples of the increasingly common rankings that are published in the research and development environment. Each one uses its own method, so results differ, but if we analyze the rankings in detail the leaders do not change: the top ten countries tend to be the same, although the order varies. The same situation is found with universities and research centers. Regardless of the system that is used, the best are always at the top.

However, it is difficult to assess research results at individual level. Numerous awards recognize the best researchers in their respective areas of knowledge, but it is clearly much harder to analyze and compare research work at a general level using objective parameters.

One method that is considered valid worldwide is citation analysis. The aim is to determine the impact of the papers published by each researcher on all scientific knowledge. The number of times an article is cited is used to check its importance, and h-index can be used as an indicator of the quality and impact of scientific output.

The publishing company Thomson Reuters, which indexes all of the papers published in high-impact journals, as well as conference papers and books, has released lists of the most frequently cited researchers in the world.

One person who features on the lists is an electrical engineer called Pedro Rodríguez Cortés, the head of SEER UPC (Renewable Electrical Energy Systems, a CIT UPC member center). His intense activity has led to the publication of 66 papers since 2005, which have obtained 2,528 citations (over 44 per paper, on average) and raised his h-index to 26. According to Reuters’ data, Pedro Rodríguez is one of the 54 researchers working in Spain who have reached the top 3,000 science researchers worldwide.

This recognition is particularly important as it increases the visibility of applied research and its relation with the production sector. Pedro Rodríguez’s work in the field of renewable energies, smart grids, power electronics and distributed electricity generation, most of which is associated with industrial developments, has also received the approval of colleagues worldwide who have used his studies as the basis for new contributions to scientific knowledge.

The work carried out in technology centers, to bring technology to companies through research and development projects based on knowledge derived from the university, is the key to the CIT UPC. The task of over 500 researchers who are associated with the CIT UPC Technology Center is successfully concluded when the companies we collaborate with obtain competitive advantages that enable them to improve through technology.

However, for this to happen, the production sector must first value the potential of this mode of research. This recognition is not easy to achieve, because although companies know their opportunities to improve better than anybody, in many cases they do not consider collaborating with a specialized technology center.

This is where external recognition comes into play. Beyond everyday activities, which in the case of CIT UPC produce results that speak for themselves (over 12 million euros of revenue, 110 patents registered, over 500 projects and research and development agreements, among other results), the fact that our researchers appear in global rankings of excellence is a valuable factor that contributes to making our work more visible.

For this reason, we celebrate Pedro Rodríguez’s success and want to share his brilliant contribution to international science. Our work is based on the efforts of researchers who, like Rodríguez, make their knowledge and the capabilities of our centers available to companies. The best reward for us is to have grown every year since our foundation five years ago, and to offer more and better technological developments to the production sector. We want to be at the top of this ranking too.