Sven Giegold
Member of the European Parliament – Greens/EFA Group

Speaker of the German Green Delegation

EU competition policy: Commission’s planned reform threatens expansion of renewables

Just now, on 18 November, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager presented a Communication on the review of European competition policy. Among other things, this Communication gives an update on the Commission’s ongoing work on the review of more than 20 rules and guidelines in the area of competition policy, including the revision of the Climate, Environmental Protection and Energy Aid Guidelines (CEEAG). These are crucial for the expansion of renewable energies. The revision of the competition rules also aims to strengthen the European Green Deal. MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group comments:

“The reforms foreseen by the European Commission threaten the expansion of renewable energy production in Europe. To achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal, we need to put citizens at the centre of the energy transition. It is disappointing that renewable energy communities are not even mentioned in the Commission’s update. The decentralised expansion of renewable energies needs its own, dedicated chapter in the Climate, Environmental Protection and Energy Aid Guidelines to ensure they can get the necessary financial and administrative support. Renewable energy communities such as energy cooperatives must be exempted from compulsory bidding procedures. Here I expect the Commission to set realistic thresholds that are based on the needs of renewable energy communities and also differentiate between wind and other forms of energy production. A few megawatts more are of no use when you look at the capacities of a single modern wind turbine. For citizens to become the drivers of the energy transition, the Commission cannot impose on them the same requirements as on large companies. To ensure fair competition in renewables, an appropriate level of differentiation is absolutely necessary.

Fair competition is a powerful instrument for climate protection. It makes a big difference whether state aid goes into the expansion of an airport or into the ecological transformation of our industry. Europe needs a competition policy for the ecological transformation of our energy supply. I expect the Commission to make a clear commitment to the expansion of renewables, with citizens as a key actor.

Competition policy and the European Green Deal must go hand in hand. In order to achieve our climate goals, we must tackle environmentally harmful subsidies. Environmentally harmful subsidies must no longer be allowed in our European internal market. We need to end all remaining subsidies for fossil fuels and their infrastructure. Here, the reform of the General Block Exemption Regulation is crucial, because it determines which state aid does not require prior approval by the Commission.

I welcome the Commission’s support for so-called carbon contracts for difference, which we Greens have called for. Such contracts can be used to promote the transition of the economy towards climate-neutral production in a targeted manner. Those who invest in sustainable production and business models deserve government support. As long as environmental standards are not yet strict and prices are not yet fair, specific forms of state aid are indispensable. The Commission has also promised to make it easier for companies to jointly set minimum social and environmental standards. This would allow supermarkets, for example, to set social, environmental and animal welfare standards for their suppliers without coming into conflict with EU competition law. This has also been a Green demand.”

Communication by the Commission on competition policy review: https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/documents-register/detail?ref=COM(2021)713&lang=en

Towards a European competition policy based on the Green Deal – key Green demands: https://sven-giegold.de/en/gruener-action-plan-for-eu-competition-policy/

Green Action Plan: https://sven-giegold.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/action-plan_competition-green-deal_giegold-july2021.pdf

P.S.: Sign now: “Meltdown of Europe’s energy transition: Stop the greenwashing of nuclear power and gas!” – Following pressure from Macron & the nuclear and gas lobby, Ursula von der Leyen and Frans Timmermans plan to label investments in nuclear power and gas as sustainable. This is a frontal attack on the energy transition. Help prevent this with your signature!