Commission to clarify guidance for energy

By Dave Keating  –  European Voices, 17 October 2013

Wide range of approaches across the EU

The European Commission’s energy department is expected to publish next week draft guideance on subsidies for renwable energy, to bring greater clarity and predictability to member states’ approaches. But data showing that fossil fuels and nuclear energy together receive more public money than renewable energy are unlikely to appear in the document.

An early draft included figures from the Commission’s energy department indicating that renewables currently receive €30 billion per year, while fossil fuels are receiving €26bn and also costing governments €40bn in healthcare costs that are passed on to the taxpayer. Nuclear energy receives €35bn.

But people involved in the issue say that these figures were deleted after a personal intervention by Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy. “The attempt by commissioner Oettinger to censor the European Commission’s own findings on state subsidies for energy is an embarrassment for the Commission,” said Claude Turmes, a Green MEP from Luxembourg. “The Commission’s original findings made clear that state subsidies to coal, gas and nuclear power represent the biggest threat to the functioning EU energy market.”

The figures do not provide strong support for claims by the chief executives of Europe’s ten largest energy companies last week (11 October) that high subsidies for renewables threaten the functioning of the energy market and could cause blackouts in the winter. The companies, including E.ON, CEZ, Enel and RWE, called for an end to renewable subsidies and for the EU to scrap its renewable energy target.

The claims were contested by a group of 77 companies and associations involved in the renewables sector, including the European Wind Energy Association, Dong and Alstom, which urged continuing help for renewables and a binding EU target for renewable energy for 2030.

Investors are hoping that harmonising renewable subsidy schemes will deter member states from making abrupt changes to feed-in tariffs for solar and wind.

The guidance will feed into a communication expected by the end of the year on state aid to energy. That document will probably be finalised in the first half of next year.

Earlier this month the Commission decided not to include state aid to nuclear energy as part of its state aid revision. The lack of codified rules will mean the Commission continues to rule on aid to the nuclear industry on a case-by-case basis.