EC opens in-depth investigation into Spain's support for coal powerStaff Writer | November 27, 2017
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether Spain's environmental incentive for coal power plants is in line with EU State aid rules.
Europe Environmental incentive
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "If you pollute, you pay – this is a long-standing principle in EU environmental law. EU State aid rules do not allow Member States to relieve companies of this responsibility using taxpayer money.
"We currently believe that this Spanish scheme did not incentivise coal power plants to reduce harmful sulphur oxide emissions – they were already under an obligation to do so under EU environmental law.
"Therefore, we are concerned that the support gave these coal power plants an unfair competitive advantage. We will now investigate this issue further."
In 2007, the Spanish authorities introduced a scheme (environmental incentive) to support the installation of new sulphur oxide filters in existing coal power plants.
These filters were supposed to reduce sulphur oxide emissions from those plants below certain limits.
In return, the coal power plants were entitled to receive public support linked to the size of the plant for a period of 10 years (i.e. €8,750 per megawatt per year).
Since 2007, 14 coal power plants benefitted from the scheme and received in total more than €440 million in public support, and payments will continue until 2020.
Spain did not notify this measure to the Commission for assessment under EU State aid rules.
At this stage, the Commission has concerns that the emission limits imposed on beneficiaries of the scheme merely implement mandatory environmental EU standards which applied to coal power plants at the time. ■