Solar panels on the roof of the modern extension of the National Theater
The Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade (MPO) and an association championing wind and solar power companies called Platforma pro OZE are at loggerheads over the scope of European Commission proceedings against the Czech Republic for failing to meet its renewable power commitments.
The European Commission announced on Nov. 24 that it was giving a final warning to Prague (and Paris) to push through renewable legislation which is overdue by a year. Under the procedure, the Czech government has two months to convince Brussels that it has taken steps to deal with the problem — or face being hauled before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and perhaps face fines for continued failure to act.
The ministry dismisses the proceedings as a formality, saying that Czech legislation complying with EU targets for 20 percent of final energy consumption to be supplied by renewable energy sources by 2020 is currently going through parliament and will soon be in place.
However, the Czech renewables association Platforma pro OZE, says the Commission proceedings are wider than just a legislative wake up call and also attack Czech authorities’ refusal to connect renewable power sources to the grid.
‘We complained about this access denial in 2010 and we understand that this latest step is linked to our complaint.’
Platforma pro OZE spokeswoman Neela Winkelmann-Heyerovská told Czech Position the association had complained to Brussels about the refusal to connect solar and wind power plants from February 2010, and that is also part of the Commission’s latest proceedings.
“We complained about this access denial in 2010 and we understand that this latest step is linked to our complaint,” she said.
Ministry spokesman Pavel Vlček said the idea that Czech grid access refusal is being questioned by Brussels is “nonsense.” He said legislation from 2005 was already in place giving renewable power sources priority access to the national electricity grid as long as such connection did not threaten the stability of the grid as a whole.
The latter reason was advanced from the start of 2010 to refuse grid connection to new renewable sources by Czech distribution companies ČEZ, E.ON and PRE, amid rushed moves to counter a solar power boom caused by generous incentives offered by the government.
Platforma says the ban still applies for the two biggest electricity distributors but has been relaxed by the smallest, and least interesting for renewable companies, Prague distributor PRE.
‘There exists reasonable suspicions of abuse of their dominant position by the main players on the market.’
The MPO says it cannot release the so-called reasoned opinion from the European Commission setting out officials’ complaints and demands of Czech authorities. A request, it says, must be dispatched to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has responsibility for such issues. The foreign ministry was not immediately able to give a reply.
Platforma complains that there the situation surrounding what renewable energy sources can be connected to the Czech grid is “still, totally untransparent.”
“There exists reasonable suspicions of abuse of their dominant position by the main players on the market. For example, ČEZ revealed that by the end of 2010, in spite of the stop situation [for connection] solar power plants with a capacity of 125 MW were connected to the grid,” the groups says.
National energy sector regulator (ERÚ) does not have an overview of what grid connection applications had been turned down or given after the declaration of a ban on new connected, complained a lawyer helping Platforma, Jakub Háyek.
The ERÚ has asked for an external audit aimed at finding out if solar power permits given out at the last minute in 2010, before lucrative feed-in tariffs were cut, were completely above suspicion of corruption or other foul play. A separate probe is looking into the internal proceedings at the regulator for setting prices for solar produced power.