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04/12/2016

EU court nails Austria, Poland over breaches to green energy rules

Energy

EU court nails Austria, Poland over breaches to green energy rules

European Court of Justice. Luxembourg, 2006.

[Cédric Puisney/Flickr]

Austria is breaking European Union law with its plans to shelter energy-intensive industries from the cost of subsidising renewable power, one of the top EU courts said yesterday (11 December).

In a separate decision, an advocate general to the EU’s highest tribunal, the Court of Justice of the European Union, found Poland had failed to implement in full the EU renewable energy law and should be ordered to pay a daily fine.

In Austria, a Green Electricity Act, not yet entered in force, could allow energy intensive businesses such as steel maker Voestalpine to avoid the full cost of a fixed price for green energy that is higher than the market price.

The green energy tariff is designed to benefit renewable power producers and help lift the share of renewable power in the energy mix, as part of EU climate and energy policy.

The Luxembourg-based General Court of the European Union, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, ruled that the scheme for energy-intensive firms constituted state aid and clashed with EU law.

Germany, by contrast, earlier this year won EU and court backing for its green energy scheme to the relief of big business.

Meanwhile the European Commission, the EU executive, is seeking to impose on Poland a daily fine of more than €61,000.

Opinions of advocate generals are adopted by the court in a majority of cases. Judges are expected to rule in the coming months.

In a statement, the Polish economy ministry said it was taking steps to fully implement the renewable energy directive.

The European Commission has said it will rigorously enforce legislation on completing the single EU energy market.

Conflicts between Ukraine and Russia, the EU’s biggest energy supplier, have intensified EU efforts to create a more efficient European market, with cross-border links, to share out available supplies and limit dependency on imported fossil fuels.