“Our final decision will come in the coming two weeks,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia told a news conference in Brussels on 11 May.
“We have to finalise our decision on the sectors to be included in the list of those which will be compensated for the increase of electricity prices due to the new system of allowances,” he added.
A preliminary list shows that the industries affected include: Aluminium production; mining of chemicals and fertiliser minerals; manufacture of inorganic chemicals; lead, zinc and tin production; leather cloths; iron and steel manufacture; paper; manufacture of fertilisers; copper; organic-based chemicals; spinning of cotton-type fibres; man-made fibres; mining of iron ores; and plastics, including polycarbonate, the omnipresent polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride, among others.
This list is subject to last-minute changes. The Commission also explained that it will regularly monitor the sectors which are deemed eligible for special state aid support in order to add or delete a specific sector.
Brussels’ move is in full accord with EU rules. Indeed, the ETS directive foresees that “member states may adopt financial measures in favour of sectors or sub-sectors determined to be exposed to a significant risk of carbon leakage due to costs relating to greenhouse gas emissions passed on in electricity prices, in order to compensate for those costs.”
Companies operating within the listed sectors will be eligible to extraordinary support, calculated according to a complex formula which takes into account production levels, electricity consumption and CO2 emissions of specific installations.
Details of how state aid can be delivered are outlined in the draft guidelines that the Commission plans to publish in the coming days and which will be applicable starting January 2013, when the next phase of the ETS enters into force.
The draft guidelines specify that “the aid intensity must not exceed 85% of the eligible costs in 2013, 2014 and 2015, 80% of the eligible costs in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 75% of the eligible costs in 2019 and 2020.”
This special state aid regime will remain in place until 2020 when the ETS is also due to expire under the existing plan.
The guidelines also sets specific expectations from normal state aid rules for investment in highly efficient power plants, for the modernisation of electricity generators and for small installations and hospitals.