Italy and Spain reprimanded by EU over renewables

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Italy and Spain have fallen foul of the European Commission’s renewable energy rules, with both countries named in the European Union’s monthly report on infringements to obligations under European law.

On 26 September the EU issued its September document of infringements by member states that have failed to comply with their obligations to various aspects of EU law.

In total the document provides details of 220 decisions taken in relation to infringements by member states, with six of those resulting in referrals to the EU Court of Justice and 32 reasoned opinions offered. Reasoned opinions represent a formal request to comply with the law, with the decision concerning Italy and Spain among the reasoned opinions. Although at present limited to this formal request, if Italy and Spain fail to take action and comply with the EU’s demand within two months, the two countries could be referred to the EU Court of Justice.

According to EU law, all member states must inform the European Commission fully regarding each country’s own plans to transpose the 2009 EU Renewables Directive to domestic law. The Renewables Directive’s ambitious targets include for all member states to generate a 20% share of energy from renewable sources by 2020. To date, similar actions have been taken against 17 countries in the EU; Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Latvia and the Netherlands.

Member states are expected to explain fully to the EU how the Renewables Directive will be transposed to domestic legislation. For example, countries are expected to inform the European Commission on how grid investment will take place to facilitate the adding of renewable energy capacity. This law had to be implemented by 5 December 2010. In the words of the EU statement: “Italy and Spain have not informed the Commission of all the necessary transposition measures for fully transposing the Directive into their national legislation.”

Spain’s PV industry body Unión Española Fotovoltaica (UNEF) has strongly criticised the Spanish government for introducing measures that could cut the revenue PV generators could have expected to earn between 2010 and 2020 by 20%.

At the beginning of September, Italy introduced a €9 billion (US$12.15 billion) annual cap on renewable energy incentive spending, although the Italian industry body Photovoltaic Companies Group (Gruppo Imprese Fotovoltaiche Italiane, GIFI) said to PV-Tech when the news broke that this was unlikely to have a direct impact on the solar power industry as it was a measure taken to slow down rising national debt levels.

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