EWEA alarm at EU support plans

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has sounded alarm bells over proposed changes by Brussels to guidance governing support mechanisms that EU member states can use to underpin renewables deployment while staying within state aid rules.

Draft guidelines issued by the European Commission (EC) could spell the end of feed-in tariffs (FITs) for wind installations bigger than 5MW or three turbines, prevent nations from differentiating between generation sources such as onshore and offshore wind, and drag the latter into the realms of a “mature technology”, EWEA said.

The EC today opened a consultation period over the proposals for its Environmental and Energy Guidelines lasting until February, with the final policy due to come into force in July next year and covering the period to 2020.

As expected, the proposals are heavily geared to encouraging the use of feed-in premiums and tenders as the basis for future support.

An EC statement says: “With an increasing penetration and decreasing costs of renewable energy, state aid should gradually move to a more market friendly support of renewable energy in the form of market premiums or certificate schemes. The former provides producers with a supplement on top of the wholesale price, the latter establishes a market for tradable certificates between producers and suppliers of renewable energy.

“This should allow renewable energy to integrate and play its role in the electricity market and new forms of renewable energy to develop.”

But EWEA flagged up a number of concerns, and claimed that “under the current version, the guidelines would fail to create fair market conditions for renewables and require fundamental changes to national support mechanisms worsening the crisis currently experienced by the sector.

"These guidelines, if adopted in their present form, endanger member states' ability to meet their 2020 renewable energy targets cost-effectively," it added.

"Moreover, following the destabilising regulatory changes for renewable energy in many countries, requiring further fundamental changes to support mechanisms would cause major investor uncertainty."

The wind body urged that feed-in tariffs should at least be maintained for offshore wind to “guarantee investor certainty”, while also warning that the “over simplistic methodology” used to define a mature or immature technology risked dragging offshore wind into the former category – and so making it subject to the most stringent conditions.

It also noted that several member states had abandoned tenders in recent years.

On the upside, EWEA said at least the proposals would have no retroactive effect for projects, adding that while the differentiation between mature and immature technologies needs more work, the overall idea was positive.

EWEA said:“Member states and stakeholders must ensure the guidelines do not put at risk their path to the 2020 targets when they take part in the consultation on the proposal that has been launched.”