Exclusive: Foreign investors set to sue Spain over energy reform

Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:47pm EST
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By Tracy Rucinski and Jose Elías Rodríguez

MADRID (Reuters) - Foreign investors in renewable energy projects in Spain have hired lawyers to prepare potential international legal action against the Spanish government over new rules they say break their contracts.

It is unclear how much claims might be worth, but international funds have more than 13 billion euros ($17 billion) of renewable energy assets in Spain and say that the government has reneged on the terms of their investment.

The Spanish Parliament approved a law on Thursday that cuts subsidies for alternative energy technologies, backtracking on its push for green power.

That measure, along with other recent laws including a tax on power generation that hit green energy investments especially hard, will virtually wipe out profits for photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind plants, sector lobbyists say.

International commercial law firm Allen & Overy told Reuters on Thursday that it is representing a group of investors in concentrated solar power plants in relation to potential claims under the international Energy Charter Treaty.

"International investment funds are consulting with legal advisers on how to proceed with action. There will be various lawsuits," Luis Crespo, secretary general of Spain's solar thermal association told Reuters.

He said that investors from the United States, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are among those pursuing action through the Brussels-based Energy Charter, an internationally ratified treaty that binds members to rules on energy and arbitration.

Allen & Overy is already handling an earlier claim against Spain, filed in 2011 on behalf of photovoltaic investors. The investors it is representing for potential new claims are in the solar thermal industry.   Continued...