Only very small amounts in terms of percentage
Last April, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a story on PV farms that claimed to have produced solar electricity between midnight and 7 a.m. The newspaper suspected the operators of running diesel-burning generators at night to cash in on the high feed-in tariffs for photovoltaic electricity in that country. A number of foreign media channels, including the influential Bloomsberg Businessweek, picked up the story.
The reaction of the Spanish PV industry association, Asociación de la Industria Fotovoltaica, regretted the fact that vague and sometimes unsubstantiated accusations of photovoltaic fraud get into the press with relative frequency. Not all of these stories translate into a valid legal case. Concerned about the public image of the sector, they asked the government to investigate the newspaper’s claims.
Such messages do indeed harm the image of solar energy. Moreover, they fuel questions regarding the usefulness of government incentives. Is the potential for fraud an argument against the system of feed-in tariffs?
Before jumping to any conclusions, it is worthwhile to put the figures into perspective. The total amount of energy that was allegedly produced fraudulently was 4,500 MWh, according to El Mundo. This is 0.05% of the total PV production in Spain in 2009 (Sources: Energyportal.eu and IEA). In the same period, the European retail sector lost 1.33% of their turnover to theft and the American retail sector even more at 1.61% (Source: CRR Centre for Retail Research).
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