New solar water heater incentive in Murcia region in Spain

On 8 October, the government of Murcia, a region with a population of 1.5 million in the southeast of Spain, launched an investment grant scheme to support solar water heaters. It allocated EUR 200,000 to offer EUR 500 for each m² of collector area, up to a maximum of EUR 3,000 per installation. Buyers of systems that come with a five-year maintenance contract will receive another 10 %. Last year, Murcia set up a programme to increase gross renewable energy consumption from 6.98 % to 10 % by 2020. 
Daily solar irradiation between 5.2 kWh and 5.3 kWh per m² means that Murcia is truly one of Europe’s most sun-kissed regions, although it has yet to tap much of that potential. With as little as 54,361 m², it is 12th among the Spanish regions showing the largest collector area installed, which puts it well behind neighbouring Andalusia, where over 1,000,000 m² are in operation.
A stimulus package is now hoped to rectify the situation. The regional government published order no. 5993 to support an increase in the number of “solar thermal collector systems that provide hot water for sanitary facilities”. The new regulations are aimed at owners of single-family buildings and terraced houses and cap the grant amount at EUR 3,000 or 75 % of total system cost including installation costs. Systems of up to 5 kW (7.1 m²) are eligible for the incentive, although units that are subject to the technical building regulations CTE are not.
Thanks to a EUR 200,000 budget, 400 m² or more may be installed because of the incentive. But the amount is little more than a drop in the ocean, as it corresponds to 1 % of the solar thermal capacity currently installed across the region. Support will be given on a first come, first served basis until funds are depleted. 
Alejandro Diego Rosell is a Madrid-based freelance journalist and consultant specialising in renewable energies.

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