Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Legal Dealmaker hosts a unique event that gathers more than 60 top Energy lawyers

Sponsored by Ontier, the Top Energy Lawyers Spain 2022” gala night gathered 28 law firms represented by some of their best Energy lawyers who received the award from top companies in the Energy field


With this event, Legal Dealmaker recognised the enormous talent and practice excellence in the Legal-Energy sector in Spain after this media selection, ‘Top 100 Energy Legal Dealmakers in Spain’, published last May 18th. The editorial team wanted to pay a well-deserved tribute to this important selection of lawyers in an event -sponsored by the law firm ONTIER- that took place last Thursday, 22 September, at NUBEL (Reina Sofía Museum premises).

Pablo Enrile, ONTIER’s partner opening speech

Pablo Enrile, partner at Ontier, was in charge of giving the opening speech. He offered a clear and real vision of the current moment that the Energy sector is passing through from a legal perspective.

“First of all, we would like to thank Legal Dealmaker for organising this event and the prizes awarded to all the attendees. Analysing the list of award winners, it can truly be said that Legal Dealmaker has done an exhaustive job of selecting the professionals involved in this sector. Obviously, there will always be absences, but there is no doubt that the list includes a list of top-level lawyers with proven experience and quality in legal advice in the world of Energy.

It is certainly excellence and quality that we have needed and will need in this sector in recent years and in the years to come. It is particularly striking that public opinion has dubbed the crisis generated by the war in Ukraine as the energy crisis. It is clear that the war in Ukraine is having a negative impact on the supply of other raw materials such as cereals and sunflowers and is causing a number of social and economic problems. However, the whole of public opinion and the international community is focusing on the energy crisis. For many years, Europe has lived under the misconception that its energy supply was guaranteed.

It is no longer disputed that the change in the energy model that was taking place in Europe is no longer desirable but necessary. The debate is now about the timeframe in which this change should take place.

The EU has made it clear to the Member States that they must urgently implement the necessary changes to streamline permitting and licensing processes and procedures and encourage the development of renewable energy generation plants as much as possible.

Looking back over the last two years, the RES-E sector in Spain has undergone or suffered an endless number of regulatory changes. To summarise:

1.- Where previously access and connection permits did not expire, now they not only expire after five years, but intermediate expiry periods have been introduced. Now, from time to time, the market watches carefully (some with fear or panic and others with satisfaction) as a huge volume of MWs under development may lose their access permits with the consequent execution of guarantees and whether or not the government will be willing to extend the corresponding intermediate term.

2.- Where once access permits were applied for and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, we are now faced with capacity tenders with award criteria that are far removed from the strictly financial or energy-related.

3.- Where previously the marginalist pricing system was robust and immovable, we are now faced with government intervention in the profits obtained by generation companies in 2021 (not with much success) or direct intervention in this system with the so-called Iberian solution.

4.- Where previously self-consumption was not an attractive business (except for a few industries), now there has been a strong development of this business even by companies that had never before intervened in the energy sector (TELEFONICA, EL CORTE INGLÉS or IKEA are clear examples).

Many of these changes have not always taken place in the best way. Those of us in this sector have been astonished to see how drastic changes have taken place 24 hours before the lifting of a moratorium of more than a year, essential legislative changes by surprise without parliamentary processing or clarifications from the Ministry to regulations that directly change the meaning of the same. In short, there is clearly room for improvement in legislative technique.

And despite everything, the appetite for investment in Spain continues to grow, showing that the change in the energy model is a reality and Spain is in a privileged position

I particularly have to thank this government because this regulatory uncertainty makes us lawyers a key player and our advice becomes much more important.

Truly, in order to protect oneself from these regulatory and market fluctuations, it is necessary to sharpen one’s wits, providing large doses of legal creativity.

And of course, we cannot forget the emergence in this market of new business models such as self-consumption, storage, hybridisation or green hydrogen.

There is no doubt that we lawyers specialising in the energy sector are living a sweet moment, but it is fair to recognise that it did not just fall from the sky. Behind it there is an enormous effort of adaptation, constant updating and learning new forms or business models. In short, many hours of work and effort.

At ONTIER, many years ago, we made a firm commitment to this sector, strengthening the areas of Corporate M&A, regulatory, environmental, tax and real estate. But this evening cannot end without publicly conveying my most sincere thanks to our Energy partner Lucía González (also an award winner today). None of what we have created would have been possible without her.

Finally, I would like to congratulate all of you present. I know many of you well, and it is tangible proof that this collective award is well deserved.

Thanks again to Legal Dealmaker and all of you.”

Vicente Lópe-Ibor Mayor, Honour Award of the gala night

After this, D. Vicente López-Ibor Mayor, president of EFELA and AEDEN and chairman and partner of EJI Abogados López-Ibor Mayor, appointed as this Top Energy Lawyers Tribute edition’s Honour Award, was recognised by receiving the trophy from Legal Dealmaker’s director, Desiré Vidal who asked him to offer some works to the audience.  

At present, Energy Law is a branch with full autonomy and must therefore be interpreted in a unitary sense. This interpretative task requires common principles applicable to all energy sub-sectors (oil, gas, nuclear, renewables, hydrogen…) in order to ensure legal certainty and smart regulation, which is essential for the development of the sector. Energy Law, thanks to its interdisciplinary richness (Regulatory, M&A, Real Estate, Tax…) and the relevance of its subject matter, is today one of the most important legal practices at European and global level.

Vicente López-Ibor Mayor
Ana Velón, head of legal at Gransolar Group

Ana Velón, head of legal at Gransolar Group, was in charge along with Desiré Vidal of the presentation of the Top lawyers from top law firms who were selected and present at the gala night. In this regard, there were partners from Baker McKenzie Spain, RocaJunyent, Araoz & Rueda Abogados, Ramón y Cajal Abogados, Eversheds Sutherland Spain, Montero | Aramburu Abogados, ONTIER, GOLD Abogados, Simmons & Simmons, KPMG España, BROSETA, Pinsent Masons, King & Wood Mallesons, Squire Patton Boggs, Watson Farley & Williams, CMS Albiñana & Suárez de Lezo, EY Abogados, MVA Asociados, Andersen, Evergreen Legal, Pérez-Llorca, Ashurst, EJI López-Ibor Mayor Abogados, Deloitte Legal, Clifford Chance, Uría Menéndez, Mariscal & Abogados, and Maio Legal.

Lucía González, partner at ONTIER

Following the lawyers from the private practice awards ceremony, Lucía González, who was officially promoted to partner at ONTIER just a few hours before, was in charge of opening the recognition to the in-house lawyers’ act. Lucía, who highlighted the human side of the legal practice as a professional career and the main role in-house lawyers play in every deal process, said:

“Good evening everyone,

Firstly, I would like to thank Desiré and Legal Dealmaker for having Ontier as a sponsor of this magnificent event. Secondly, congratulations on the success because for a long time, the awards have been focused on lawyers from law firms when great lawyers are deserving of recognition in-house, and today Legal Dealmaker sits here so that we can mutually not only present awards but also applaud the work of all.

I would also like to congratulate all the award winners, great professionals in the sector.

Desiré asked me to talk about the role of in-house lawyers, and I was particularly excited because I am a rara avis in the legal ecosystem. I began my professional career as part of Gestamp’s legal department, where I worked alongside Jaime de la Serna, who is also an award-winner today, before moving on to Cobra and about ten years ago starting a new journey as an in-house lawyer.

I remember that when I was studying for my Master’s degree in legal advice at IE, we had a lot of doubts about how to approach our professional careers, the first of which was whether we would like to be part of an in-house legal firm or a law firm. One day, one of our professors tried to answer our question with a similarity that I have remembered many times since then. Let me share this similarity with you: taxi driver and private chauffeur. We can equate the skills and attitudes of a taxi driver to an in-house lawyer and a chauffeur to an in-house lawyer.

The taxi driver interacts with many different clients throughout his day, clients with very different needs, with specific ways of doing things, with different roadmaps… while the chauffeur has a single client, whom he must know perfectly, and be clear about his roadmap, which will sometimes be repeated and have a bond that probably often goes beyond strictly his job.

I think that is a very graphic way of looking at it. I have been a legal driver, I am a taxi driver, and I consider that both profiles are very necessary and that working together and trusting each other only enriches the result.

Being part of the legal department of a company, being close to the business helps to understand and detect the needs and in a sector that is moving so fast, in which we have dealt and are dealing with numerous changes in recent years, as a result of technological and legal advances and new business models, it is very important to be close to the business.

As a result of this speed and progress, in 2017, we started to develop projects again. In 2018 self-consumption was a super novelty and marked the beginning of distributed generation… and only four years later, we have seen so many new things: hybridisation, storage, green hydrogen projects, capacity tenders, M&A operations in which we have included concepts such as RtB, 100% merchant financing… and all that is yet to come.

Over the years, the in-house lawyer has been gaining weight in organisations, going from being dedicated to the strictly legal side to often being considered as the person within the organisation who “put problems” to the project to a member of the management body of the companies, providing a very complementary vision to the business of opportunities and risks and participating in decision making. As Vicente pointed out earlier, he has a multidisciplinary vision of an object (the company’s business):

I value as an in-house lawyer the knowledge of the in-house lawyer who knows the needs and opportunities of the company and who trusts and can collaborate with the in-house lawyers from within the company, thus forming a perfect tandem; teaming up is key to the success of operations.

Eduardo Sánchez, senior associate at Clifford Chance

To recognise the in-house Energy lawyers, Legal Dealmaker counted on Eduardo Sánchez, Project Finance senior associate at Clifford Chance, recognised during the night as one of the main legal actors of Energy Project Finance cross-border deals.

Within this part, many Legal responsibles from some of the most relevant energy and/or renewable energy companies were awarded: Gransolar Group, EDP Renewables, BayWa r.e. EMEA, Canadian Solar, Soltec, Grenergy Renovables, Grupotec, Dominio Green, Siemens Energy, Siemens Gamesa, Iberdrola, X-ELIO Energy, Capital Energy, Forestalia Renovables, Repsol, Endesa and Acciona Energy.

During the act of recognition, a commemorative trophy was awarded to all the selected lawyers. The recognition part was followed by a cocktail dinner and a networking session.

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