Festive EU gives approval to member state projects

The UK's Drax coal-fired power plant will be partly converted into a biomass plant, after the EU gave its blessing to Westminster's plans. [thewritingzone/ Flickr]

The European Commission was in a giving mood just in time for Christmas today (19 December) as it greenlit a number of member state projects.

The EU executive today approved the United Kingdom’s plans to support the conversion of a unit of the Drax power plant from coal to biomass, saying it would further the bloc’s environmental and energy targets.

The Commission opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed state aid in January to check that it would not lead to overcompensation and undue distortions of competition in the biomass market.

Westminster plans to support the conversion by paying a premium on top of the market price of the electricity generated.

Green transport target will be scrapped post-2020, EU confirms

EU laws requiring member states to use “at least 10%” renewable energy in transport will be scrapped after 2020, the European Commission confirmed, hoping to set aside a protracted controversy surrounding the environmental damage caused by biofuels.

“On the basis of this analysis, the Commission has now concluded that the planned premium will not result in overcompensation,” the Commission said in a statement.

Rome was on the Commission’s ‘nice list’ too, as Brussels chose to approve Italian public support schemes designed to shift freight transport from roads to cut congestion and pollution.

The first measure, with a budget of €255 million euros, aims to shift freight traffic to rail by granting subsidies to rail transport operators. The executive found the scheme was open to all rail freight companies operating in Italy and that the support was limited.

The second measure, called Marebonus, with a budget of €138 million euros, is designed to encourage a shift to sea transportation. The scheme will grant aid to shippers for starting new services of upgrading existing routes.

Spain seeks to reopen ‘motorway of the sea’ with EU funding

Spain has asked the European Union for €3 million to resume its so-called ‘motorway of the sea’ between Gijón in Northern Spain and Saint Nazaire in Western France. EURACTIV Spain reports.