Irish face EC fine for RE laws

The European Commission has referred Ireland to the EU Court of Justice for failing to fully integrate the 2020 renewables directive into its national legislation.

The announcement comes just one day after the Commission confirmed it will not propose a new binding renewable-energy target on EU member states for 2030, although the EU’s 20% target for 2020 – with differentiated but legally binding targets for each country – remains in place.

Ireland follows Austria, Poland and Cyprus in having been referred to the Court of Justice for failing to fully “transpose” 2009’s Renewable Energy Directive into national legislation, with other member states likely to follow as 2020 draws nearer.

The Commission has suggested a daily penalty of €25,000 for Ireland, equivalent to a little more than €9m ($12.3m) per year, a figure which underscores what many observers have seen as the lack of teeth behind the EU’s renewables policy.

The daily fine – which may still be adjusted – would not effect until a final judgment has been rendered by the Court of Justice, and it would stay in place until all the relevant points in the EU Directive have been written into Irish law.

The deadline for EU member states to have written the Renewable Energy Directive into their local laws was in December 2010. The Commission says it first sent Ireland a warning letter in January 2011, and followed up with a second in June 2012.

The Commission acknowledges that Ireland has already adopted a “considerable amount” of the Directive into its laws, but is still missing critical components regarding things like grid-access for renewables.

Ireland boasts one of the world’s highest penetrations of wind power, but its renewables roll-out has been hampered in recent years by factors such as grid constraints, uncertainty over support schemes, and the impact of the financial crisis.

Last month EirGrid, Ireland’s transmission system operator, warned that the country will struggle to meet its binding 2020 renewables targets without a huge surge in wind farm construction.

The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 allows the Commission the ask the Court of Justice to impose financial sanctions on member states when they do not transpose EU legislation into national law within a required deadline.

The severity of the daily fines are based on several factors, including the duration of the infringement, the “seriousness” of the law, and the affluence of the country in question.