EU member states could use emergency energy measures to penalize solar


SolarPower Europe has voiced concern about the possible “patchwork implementation” of the emergency energy measures agreed by the European Commission and European Council last week.

When the commission originally proposed a cap on revenue earned by solar generators, and other cheap-to-operate power plants, SolarPower Europe has called for such a measure to be applied uniformly across the bloc. That may have reflected a fear that less solar-friendly European member states would be ready to exploit any opportunity to penalize renewables more harshly than other “infra-marginal” generators, such as operators of lignite power plants or nuclear reactors.

However, the measures agreed last week between the commission and the council – made up of member state energy ministers – paid no heed to the call for uniformity. The measures about to be set down in EU law, and which will apply until June 30, accord member states the freedom to vary the level of the €0.18/kWh revenue cap suggested by the commission and, crucially, to discriminate between different low-marginal-cost generation technologies.

“The final text preserves the main elements of the commission proposal while addressing the concerns of member states and providing flexibility where necessary,” said European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.

SolarPower Europe urged member states to stick to the €0.18/kWh revenue ceiling proposed and to apply it, on a monthly basis, only to “net market revenues” recorded by generators, after hedging and other costs have been applied.

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The revenue cap has been proposed because Europe's electricity market sets prices across the board pegged to the most expensive source of power bid in the auctions held to meet demand. With gas prices having soared since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, the EU says the owners of power plants which have very low operating costs – such as solar projects – have benefited to an excessive extent.

The industry has countered by pointing out that the price of solar electricity is usually agreed well in advance of delivery, rather than sold on the day-to-day spot market, so the record gas price has yet to filter through to clean power company balance sheets.

In responding to the emergency energy measures, SolarPower Europe also said it is time for the EU authorities to accord the same emergency status to the continent's urgent need to roll out renewables as it had done to keeping the lights on. Referring to the article 122 emergency procedure under which the commission and council rushed through last week's package, SolarPower Europe said the commission should draft an emergency plan for boosting clean power and bring it to the council this year.

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