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Brussels investigates Spain's state aid to coal plants

The Commission examines the 440 million euros received by 14 Spanish Centrals

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Brussels investigates Spain's state aid to coal plants

The research announced by European Commission affects 14 Centrals that have received more than 440 million of public aid since 2007. These payments, to be maintained up to 2020, subsidize for a period of 10 years installation of new sulphur oxide filters in existing coal plants (last year re was a total of 26). Spain did not notify that aid scheme to Brussels, whose authorities decide wher state aid is in conformity with European rules of competition.

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Sources of Ministry of Energy have responded that se subsidies are financed in charge of system, not with budgets. "When y were formed y did not enter definition of public aid." The system was respectful of EU regulations and usual practices at time it was introduced, he argues. According to se sources, European Commission has known this scheme for years and has never said anything so far. The scheme is already closed and ends in 2020, remember. "Spain is willing to continue procedure to preserve legitimate trust with which it was activated in its day," reports Miguel Ángel Nocede.

However, curator of branch, Margre Vestager, has serious doubts that Spanish regime respects that framework. "If you pollute you pay." [...] EU rules do not allow states to free companies from this responsibility by using taxpayers ' money. We believe that this Spanish regime did not encouraged coal plants to reduce harmful emissions of sulphur oxide, because y were obliged to do so under EU law, he argued Vestager in a statement.

The Commission maintains that this environmental subsidy to coal-fired plants – most CO2 emitted when producing electricity – produced no incentive effect. The reason is that emission limits imposed on beneficiaries coincided with EU environmental standards. That is to say, re was no added value; Aid was simply granted by law enforcement. European standards impede such behaviour, contrary to principle that polluter pays. Cushioning those payments with public money represents an unfair competitive advantage over companies that are obliged to comply with same European rule without any assistance.

The Community executive specifies that opening of investigation does not prejudge outcome and that it will continue its research until reaching a conclusion.

Examining new Decree

The investigation is known after Brussels has decided to examine decree of Government which seeks to prevent closure of power stations-including coal-fuelled-if this influences bill of Light, as country has anticipated. This initiative of Ministry of Energy put Spanish government in trouble at last climate summit held in Bonn this month. Spain was left out of alliance advocating closure of se facilities because of impact on climate change and in which France, United Kingdom and Italy participated, among ors.

Brussels will also look with a magnifying glass if Spanish executive fulfils commitment he signed last year to close all coal mines in 2018. The Commission authorized use of 2.13 billion euros of public money to close 26 non-competitive coal deposits, which will mean end of this activity. The deadline for closing, as European regulation marks, is end of 2018. And mines will have to return that money if goal is not achieved in established time, depending on conditions set to authorize aid.

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