In 2008, the Spanish government, under pressure from the eurozone to
cut its budget during the financial crisis, began to reverse generous
subsidies for solar energy. Spain reduced support for solar in stages.
It changed the definition of its main solar incentive program in 2008,
reduced the subsidies through two measures in 2010, placed a moratorium
on subsidies for new solar plants in 2011, and added further
restrictions in 2013.
Renewable energy activists could only shout into the air. But a group of investors hatched a plan.
Between November 2011 and December 2013, 22 different companies sued
Spain in seven different cases over the subsidy changes – not in Spanish
courts, but using ISDS.
RREEF, an investment fund subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Bank, and Antin,
a private equity firm owned by French bank BNP Paribas, purchased their
Spanish solar-thermal power plants in 2011, three years after
the country began to roll back subsidies. But when they went to ISDS,
they claimed they had expected subsidies to continue — not to continue
“It feels like they acquired [the solar plants] in order to sue,”
said Lora Verheecke, a campaigner for Corporate Europe Observatory, a
Brussels-based research organization. Those two cases are still pending;
a tribunal order allowed the RREEF case to advance in June.