The European Community Power Coalition, a network of over 40 associations has criticised the European Commission for ignoring Renewable Energy Communities in its latest draft state aid guidelines.
The guidelines for Climate, Energy and Environment (CEEAG) were published last month, setting out the conditions under which state aid for energy and environmental protection can be allowed under the Single Market, and were followed by a public consultation.
In an open letter to Commission vice president Frans Timmermans and commissioner Margrethe Vestager, the Community Power Coalition hit out at the draft guidelines, arguing they do not meet the objectives of the European Green Deal, and make no mention of Renewable Energy Communities (RECs).
“The European Green Deal promises a new direction for European policy making,” the coalition letter said. “In recent months the level of ambition of climate and energy policies is rightly increasing. Even the IEA in its Net Zero Scenario says we need to be at carbon neutral electricity by 2035.
“To achieve these ever more ambitious targets we need citizen and community engagement, which is vital to ensure the acceptance of the energy transition. That is why we are deeply disappointed that in these draft guidelines any mention of RECs has been omitted.”
It added: “The proposed CEEAG draft not only fails to include any reference to RECs, but it also makes it more difficult for them to access support schemes. Both the multi-technology approach and the ever more restrictive criteria for bidding exemptions create barriers for energy communities to access public funds. This creates additional challenges for RECs to be able to participate on a level playing field with energy incumbents.”
It added that the guidelines were “out of line with the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) and with the aims of the European Green Deal” and pointed out that RECs “are a key tool for Member States to achieve a swift and popular energy transition”.
The letter further emphasises that Article 22 (7) of the REDII mandates member states to take into account the specificities of RECs when designing their support schemes. However, this is requirement is not referenced in the CEEAG and the Coalition believes this leaves member states with an unclear message.
“We draw attention to the good practice example of a support scheme from Ireland that includes specific forms of support for projects developed by RECs,” the letter said.
“This project was approved by DG Competition and welcomed by you, Commissioner Vestager. Thanks to the approved support scheme, projects developed by RECs will benefit from grants and loans to sustain the development of their projects, and will participate in auctions in a special category in order to ensure that a certain number of these initiatives are successful.
“These are the kinds of schemes that need to be mainstreamed across the European Union. However, without clear guidance in that direction, Member State governments remain convinced that EU competition law is a barrier to their ability to implement support schemes.”
The Coalition wants the draft guidelines changed to include provisions and references to RECs to make sure that competition law supports the green transition, rather than forming a barrier to it.
Its members include apex Co-operatives UK, and renewable energy co-ops Coopernico, Enercoop, and SomEnergia and renewable energy federations Energy4All and RESCoop.