Brussels, 9 April 2014
State aid: Commission adopts new rules on public support for environmental protection and energy
The European Commission has adopted new rules on public support for projects in the field of environmental protection and energy. The guidelines will support Member States in reaching their 2020 climate targets, while addressing the market distortions that may result from subsidies granted to renewable energy sources. To this end, the guidelines promote a gradual move to market-based support for renewable energy. They also provide criteria on how Member States can relieve energy intensive companies that are particularly exposed to international competition from charges levied for the support of renewables. Furthermore, the guidelines include new provisions on aid to energy infrastructure and generation capacity to strengthen the internal energy market and ensure security of supply (see also MEMO/14/276).
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "It is time for renewables to join the market. The new guidelines provide a framework for designing more efficient public support measures that reflect market conditions, in a gradual and pragmatic way. Europe should meet its ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the Single Market. This will contribute to making energy more affordable for European citizens and companies."
The remarkable growth of renewable energy over recent years, partly induced by public support, has helped to make progress on environmental objectives but has also caused serious market distortions and increasing costs to consumers. The Commission has reflected this in the new guidelines, which will be valid from 1 July 2014 until the end of 2020.
Key features of the guidelines include:
At the same time the Commission will also simplify procedures to implement certain aid measures in the field of environmental protection and energy. It is foreseen that several categories of environmental and energy aid measures will be included in the upcoming revision of the General Block Exemption Regulation (see IP/13/1281). This will make it easier and quicker for public authorities to implement such measures since they do not need to obtain prior approval by the Commission. Examples of these measures include certain forms of aid to promote of renewable energies or district heating, to clean up contaminated sites or to improve energy efficiency in buildings.
The guidelines are available here: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/energy/legislation_en.html
The 2008 State aid Guidelines on Environmental Protection (see MEMO/08/31) included assessment criteria for state aid measures in 12 different areas, such as improving environmental performance beyond or in the absence of compulsory EU standards, supporting waste management activities, energy saving or remediation of contaminated sites.
During the six years of their application, a large part of expenditure assessed under the 2008 Guidelines has served to promote energy from renewable energy sources. Increasingly over the last years, state aid has also been granted for energy measures that fell outside the scope of the Guidelines, such as energy infrastructure or security of supply, for which the Guidelines did not include compatibility criteria. In the absence of specific criteria, such aid was examined by the Commission under the more general provisions on State aid established in Article 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The adoption of the new guidelines was preceded by three public consultations of Member States and stakeholders, starting in July 2012. In December 2013 the Commission consulted the public on a draft (see IP/13/1282). The adoption of the energy and environmental state aid guidelines is part of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation agenda (see IP/12/458).