The situation facing the beleaguered renewable energy industry in the Czech Republic has taken another twist. The Czech Energy Regulatory Office (ERU), on 1 September, claimed that over 1,500 solar plant owners may have submitted falsified electricity production data in order to receive more subsidies than they were entitled to.
Public broadcasters Czech Television (CT) claimed that some solar plants have recorded more sunlight than would be expected in the Czech Republic annually. Allegedly, more than 1,500 owners of PV power generating plants recorded over 1,200 hours of sunlight in a year. According to the television reports, this would be closer to the amount of sunshine expected in California.
However, Czech renewable energy website Solarni Novinky and photovoltaic industry association Czepho, has commented on the subject, strongly questioning the strength of evidence and even logic behind the accusation. Both argue that compared against data prepared by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, recorded periods of sunlight fall well within expected levels and that the accusation is false.
Czepho and Solarni Novinky argue that the number of hours of sunlight expected in the country each year is between 1,200 and 1,800. Both argue that critical factors have not been considered, including diffuse sunlight on cloudy days and the role of the electricity distribution companies in co-ordinating measurements of energy production with the market operator.
A Czech industry figure, speaking to PV Tech on condition of anonymity, said it was unclear where the data that the accusations were based on was coming from, and that the data seemed “mixed up” at best. The source was also unhappy with the high public profile of the regulator, arguing that equivalent bodies in other countries were not constantly in the press influencing opinion.
It is understood that the ERU has asked the State Energy Inspection Authority to become involved in investigating energy producers.
In mid-August, the Czech government began dramatically slashing subsidies for renewable energy producers, following a wave of negative publicity and artificially inflated energy prices for consumers. Less than a week ago, it was reported that Alena Vitaskova, chairwoman of the ERU could face criminal charges along with nine other colleagues for allegedly allowing solar power plants built in 2011 to be fraudulently registered as completed in or before 2010, in order to receive higher subsidy rates.
Yesterday, as expected, the Czech lower house of parliament voted to end feed-in tariff payments as of January next year and to apply a 10% rate of solar tax for future installations. The change to the law still requires approval in the Senate, which is expected to vote on the matter during its next session, beginning 12 September.