EU may rule against French feed-in tariffs
Next month, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) may rule that French feed-in tariffs for wind power violate EU law, apparently because of a technicality. Are feed-in tariffs throughout the continent at stake?
In mid-July, the ECJ made a surprising announcement by launching an investigation into whether French feed-in tariffs for wind power constitute state aid – surprising because the same court ruled in 2001 that German feed-in tariffs did not constitute state aid and were therefore compliant with EU law.
The reasoning was, as I explain over at Energy Transition, that feed-in tariffs are not paid to specific companies for specific technologies chosen by the state, but are rather paid to investors, who are free to choose specific technologies (such as direct-drive or turbines with gears in the case of wind power and monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin film in the case of photovoltaics) from whatever manufacturer they want on the market. Granted, feed-in tariffs are paid only for renewable power (though the UK is trying to implement them for nuclear), but the EU requires its member states to have targets for renewables. Feed-in tariffs are thus merely the mechanism to meet targets set by the EU.
The recent decision seems to be a minor technicality; France apparently failed to notify Brussels of its decree in which the feed-in tariffs are set forth. Yet, none of my sources in Germany are aware of any requirement for the German government to notify Brussels about its feed-in tariffs.
It is notable that the ECJ’s is limited to wind power, though that may not be an indication that the procedural error only applies to feed-in tariffs for wind power. Rather, the anti-wind campaign Vent de Cholère merely challenged the policy for wind power and not for everything.
The ECJ is expected to hand down its ruling next month. Judging from the lack of concern – there have been no reports on the matter in recent weeks, and German organizations have yet to react at all – it seems unlikely that the ECJ is about to reverse its position from 2001 and topple the most popular policy within the EU to promote renewables. We will know more in a couple of weeks. (Craig Morris)