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State Aid: Annulment proceedings lodged against the Commission’s 2014 environmental protection and energy guidelines

Case T-694/14 European Renewable Energies Federation v Commission

The European Renewable Energies Federation (“EREF”) has initiated annulment proceedings before the General Court against section 3.3.2 of the Commission’s Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020.

Section 3.3.2 of the Guidelines addresses operating aid granted to energy from renewable sources. EREF considers that the approach taken by the Commission infringes various fundamental principles of EU law, on the following grounds:

  • Contrary to the protection afforded to Member States’ “sovereign energy rights” under Article 194 TFEU, the relevant section of the Guidelines seeks to impose technology-neutral renewable energy support schemes on the Member States; moreover the Commission cannot use “quasi-legislative” guidelines to act contrary to the provisions of Directive 2009/28/EC (on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources) which instead of harmonising support schemes, leaves the Member States in control;

  • The Commission has breached the duty to give reasons, insufficient justification having been given for the introduction of a technology-neutral competitive bidding process;

  • The Commission has infringed the principle of proportionality, since the technology-neutral competitive bidding procedure set out in the relevant section of the Guidelines is not a suitable method of achieving the EU’s energy objectives, but instead imposes an excessive burden on the Member States and (owing to the administrative “red tape” involved in the bidding process) on producers; and  

  • The Commission, in harmonising renewable energy support schemes, has misused its powers.

The Commission has challenged EREF’s standing to bring the action and the General Court’s decision on admissibility is awaited.

More information is available here.