With new State aid guidelines, Commission carves out space for communities in Europe’s clean energy transition
Brussels, 21 December 2021 – Today, DG Competition, the EU Commission body in charge of approving national support schemes for renewables, published the new Climate, Environment and Aid Guidelines (CEEAG) to revise the EU Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy (EEAG). These new guidelines will significantly influence how national governments are allowed to support renewable energy communities (RECs). Overall, while the final CEEAG still allows support to fossil fuels, it will provide a significant boost to Member States looking to support the development of RECs.
Specifically, in line with the EU legislation on energy communities, the CEEAG now includes provisions that acknowledge RECs, as stated in article 2(16) of the Renewable Energy Directive, and their unique market position and challenges as non-commercial market actors. Among other supportive provisions, it includes a 6 MW threshold for community-owned projects, and a 18MW threshold specifically for community-owned wind projects, allowing them to be exempted from having to participate in competitive bidding procedures. This is particularly important as tenders and auctions for renewable energy projects have led to a steady decline in the number of REC projects across several Member States.
The final CEEAG represents a monumental improvement from the original draft, which neglected to mention energy communities entirely.
Dirk Vansintjan, President of REScoop.eu, the European Federation of Citizen Energy Cooperatives, had to say: “We welcome the Commission’s affirmation that citizens and communities are indispensable to achieving a low carbon energy transition.” Continuing, Mr. Vansintjan says “Member States now have the green light to accommodate the unique characteristics of energy communities and to develop a bikelane in their support schemes so that communities can take ownership of their renewable energy.”
Now, DG Competition will move to finalise the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) and align them with the CEEAG. The Commission will also need to provide clear and positive guidance to help Member States understand how they can effectively navigate the new State aid rules in order to fully unlock the community energy potential.