The Commission has also approved support to the Rentel and Norther windfarm projects.
The Commission found that the scheme and the two individual projects promote the integration of renewable electricity into the market, in line with the Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy. The Commission concluded that the scheme and the two projects will increase the proportion of green electricity and reduce pollution, while limiting distortions of competition due to the state support. They will help Belgium to meet its 2020 target of producing 13% of its energy needs from renewable sources.
Belgian offshore renewable energy scheme
Under the scheme, operators will receive certificates for offshore energy produced from renewable energy sources from the federal energy regulator (CREG). The operators can then sell these certificates to the transmission system operator Elia at a premium on top of the price they receive for electricity sold on the market.
The support scheme is financed by a surcharge that is finally paid by electricity consumers. In order to avoid any discrimination against foreign renewable energy producers resulting from the financing mechanism, Belgium has committed to partially opening up the scheme, as from 1 January 2017, to foreign producers of electricity from renewable resources.
The Norther and Rentel windfarm projects
Belgium will also support the construction of a 296 MW wind farm (the Rentel project) and a 350 MW wind farm (the Norther project). Both projects are located in the Belgian part of the North Sea. They also receive certificates for energy produced, which they can sell to Elia at a premium on top of the price they receive for electricity sold on the market. Based on the information provided by Belgium, the support level is in line with the Guidelines and does not result in overcompensation. The two projects will be partly financed by the European Investment Bank under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).
The Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy allow Member States to support renewable energy sources, subject to certain conditions. The Guidelines aim to enabling Europe to meet its ambitious energy and climate targets whilst minimising distortions of competition in the Single Market and costs for taxpayers.
The Investment Plan for Europe focuses on strengthening European investments to create jobs and growth. It does so by making smarter use of new and existing financial resources, removing obstacles to investment, providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects. The Investment Plan is already showing results. The projects and agreements approved for financing under the European Fund for Strategic Investments so far are expected to mobilise €154 billion in total investments across 27 Member States and to support almost 377 000 SMEs. On 14 September 2016, the Commission proposed extending the EFSI by increasing its firepower and duration as well as reinforcing its strengths.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be published in the State Aid Register on the competition website under the case number SA.45867 once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.