Czech police raid state utility CEZ in connection with PV sector investments

Czech police raided the Prague headquarters of state-controlled energy giant CEZ on Tuesday in connection with the company’s links to solar power plants, according to press reports.

Citing a news report by Czech Television, Czech News Agency (CTK) reported that the police’s organized crime unit visited the state utility in search of documents relating to its activities in the solar sector. Dow Jones Newswires said police were investigating the country’s main power company in connection with its investments into subsidized solar power stations.

CEZ was one of many Czech companies that rushed to build solar plants by 2011, the deadline for taking advantage of generous renewable energy subsidies, according to the Dow Jones Newswires, which added that the country’s energy markets regulator has reported widespread "irregularities" in the paperwork documenting PV power plants that went into operation in late 2010.

Earlier this year the Czech Energy Regulatory Office accused some 1,500 solar PV plant owners of manipulating their installations’ electricity generation data, reporting higher production than is possible with the sunlight in the Czech Republic.

A CEZ spokesman said the company was cooperating with police and would continue to do so.

Quoted by Dow Jones Newswires, CEZ spokesman Martin Schreier said, "We remain convinced that our activities were and are in harmony with the valid laws of the Czech Republic."

Another CEZ spokesman told news agency CTK that the police were looking into possible crimes against the utility. "According to the information they’ve told us, the police are looking into suspected criminal activities related to solar plants, which may have harmed CEZ," CEZ spokesman Ladislav Kriz told CTK.

The Dow Jones Newswires report added that Czech prosecutors had been scrutinizing CEZ and its solar power investments for more than a year, although the utility had not been accused of any wrongdoing and no charges had been filed.

News reports have said that the police had in the past investigated CEZ in connection with its purchase of a solar power plant from the Amun.Re company. CEZ, which is majority owned by the Czech government, reportedly took over the country’s largest solar plant, located in northern Bohemia, in 2010 from the anonymously-owned Amun.Re in a deal estimated at some CZK 5 billion ($251 million). CEZ, however, has not disclosed the actual purchase price.

While the police have said it is "taking steps within criminal proceedings," it did not confirm the CEZ spokesman’s account of the raid.

The Energy Regulatory Office told CTK that it had no knowledge of the investigation.

The Czech government recently passed legislation to end the country’s feed-in tariffs (FITs) for all renewable energy sources and extend a tax imposed on solar PV plants — a move seen as a major blow to the country’s PV sector.