Commission’s new proposed guidelines for support to renewables leaves energy citizens out in the cold
Brussels, 7 June 2021 – Today, DG Competition, the EU Commission body in charge of approving national support schemes for renewables, released draft guidelines for how it intends to decide on future schemes. These new guidelines will significantly impact how national governments are allowed to implement new EU rules to support renewable energy communities. Unfortunately, the new guidelines double down on subjecting renewables to auctions and tenders and they provide no clear guidance to Member States on how to support community renewable projects, failing to mention them even once.
Compared to the previous guidelines, the new draft guidelines propose to get rid of a dedicated category for supporting renewables, mixing it in with other so-called ‘low carbon’ technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture storage and utilisation (CCSU). This means that as a default, energy communities would not only have to compete against larger commercial projects for support, but they could also potentially have to compete with other low carbon technological approaches. It would also allow further support to fossil-fuelled technologies driving climate change, such as natural gas.
The new guidelines are intended to supplement EU legislation on energy communities, which aims to ensure that citizens, local authorities and small businesses can participate and take ownership in Europe’s energy transition. EU rules require Member States to take specificities of renewable energy communities into account when designing their support schemes so that they have fair access to financial support for renewable energy projects. The EU rules also require Member States to set up supportive enabling frameworks, including measures to ensure energy communities have access to finance and expertise, so that they can develop at national level.
The previous guidelines did not acknowledge energy communities, and their mandate for Member States to move towards market-based support for renewables has made it increasingly difficult for renewable energy communities to access national support schemes for renewables. DG Competition had gone so far as to recently acknowledge that its existing guidelines need to be brought in line with the new EU rules on energy communities.
Dirk Vansintjan, President of REScoop.eu, the European Federation of Citizen Energy Cooperatives, had to say: “The Commission’s State aid framework, mainly with its emphasis on market-based competitive bidding, has been a major detriment to community renewables projects, pushing them out of the market.” Going further, Mr. Vansintjan says “This revision process was a chance to give Member States a clear and positive signal that they should create space in the market for renewable energy communities to operate. With this draft, the Commission has missed a huge opportunity to help put citizens at the centre of the energy transition.”
The draft guidelines will now be open for comment period, which will last for eight weeks and close on the 2nd of August 2021.
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