16 october 2013

Commissioner Oettinger censors Commission documents to support the fossil fuel industry

Climate-Action Network-Europe, 16-10-13

Oettinger-European-ParliamentThe EU is working to guide the future of energy policy in Europe. Support schemes for renewable energy producers, state intervention in energy investment, energy storage and demand-side management are at the core of a communication known as the Energy mini-package, which the European Commission is due to release this week. Unfortunately, state aid for the renewable energy sector is coming under attack. Some politicians, including European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger, would like to see this aid come to an end.

Government support for renewable energy is being linked by the fossil fuel industry to an increase in energy bills for European industry and citizens. However, according to the Commission's own estimates [1], while renewable energy producers benefitted from about €30bn in public support in 2011, fossil fuel producers benefitted from €26 bn. Burning coal and gas created an additional €40bn in increased social and health costs, which were then passed on to EU citizens rather than the energy producers that created these damages. According to Sueddeutsche newspaper [2], support to nuclear electricity amounted to €35 bn. Running the numbers, combined, the sum of over €100bn in subsidies for the nuclear and fossil fuel industries dwarfs the €30bn given to renewables.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Oettinger is trying to ensure that such findings do not see the light of day. In the leaked document published on German newspaper Sueddeutsche [1], you can see where the Commission struck out the numbers that prove how little state aid the renewable sector receives in comparison to fossil fuels.

Even so, last week, the CEOs of a group of 10 European energy utilities called on the European Commission to ensure no more support would be given to renewables as part of the 2030 climate & energy framework. They are demanding this although the nuclear and fossil fuel industries clearly still receive ample subsidies, which they fail to mention. Not only that, these utilities called for what amounts to additional subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels: they want to be given "capacity payments" for nuclear, coal and gas plants. The idea behind such payments is that the utilities would keep these dirty power plants available for when there is not enough renewable electricity to supply demand. But with these sweeping demands for capacity payments for their dirty plants, they are clearly vying for more subsidies, not for cutting the electricity bills of European citizens. The Commission apparently responded to the CEO demand by deleting references to the real numbers for subsidies from their draft Energy mini-package.

We call on the European Commission to release the full state aid analysis giving a full overview of what subsidies go where. How can Europeans be sure they are paying the right price for the energy they choose if the European institutions won't even come clean with the numbers?
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