Spain has become one of the leading countries in the world in promoting electricity generation from renewable energy sources (RES), due to their positive socioeconomic and environmental impacts, through highly favorable regulatory frameworks and public incentives set by Spanish governments mainly during the
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Spain has become one of the leading countries in the world in promoting electricity generation from renewable energy sources (RES), due to their positive socioeconomic and environmental impacts, through highly favorable regulatory frameworks and public incentives set by Spanish governments mainly during the first decade of 2000s, i.e., Royal Decree (RD) 2818/1998, RD 436/2004 and RD 661/2007. Conversely, the highly favorable regime applicable to RES, and specifically to solar power plants during the 1998–2008 promotion period turned into an extremely unfavorable scenario during the 2008–2020 cost-containment stage, characterized by the dismantling of the previous promotion schemes so as to reduce the skyrocketing electricity system tariff deficit, in which regulations such as RD 1578/2008, Royal Decree Law (RDL) 6/2009, RDL 14/2010, RDL 1/2012, Law 15/2012, RDL 9/2013, Law 24/2013 and RD 413/2014 stood out. Nonetheless, the Spanish renewable sector, and especially the solar power sector, has shown great dynamism in its energy policy in the period 1998–2020. This academic contribution provides a comprehensive review of the energy policy evolution for the whole solar power sector in Spain, specifically both solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, over the last 23 years. Thus, considering both the boom in the solar power sector as well as the solar sector’s bust, a survey of the different legislation in force during the 1998–2020 period, as well as of the existing academic literature dealing with this issue, is conducted to first contextualize and describe, and then carefully assess, the last 23 years of solar energy policy in Spain. In brief, the decisive role of the Spanish government in developing the RES sector, and especially the solar power sector, in recent years has been noted. In this vein, a good planning of the energy development model, the regulatory stability, the simplicity and agility of the corresponding administrative process, the appropriate design of support mechanisms, as well as security and predictability of support levels in the mid and long term, play an important role in providing certainty to all the stakeholders. During the 1998–2008 promotion stage, even with a stable, quite favorable and easily predictable RES support mechanism in place, the Spanish solar system behaved as an open-loop system without any control structure detecting and reacting to problematic situations. The fact that the Spanish government was compelled to implement ex-post measures during the period 2008–2020, seriously jeopardizing the viability of the power plants in operation, as well as compromising the legal–economic stability of the renewable energy sector, clearly indicated a malfunctioning of the energy policy control mechanism. In essence, it is hoped that the lessons extracted from this 23-year comprehensive review of the Spanish solar power sector pathway could be quite useful for other countries either in the initial development stage or fully immersed in the promotion of solar power sector or any other renewable technology.