BRUSSELS The European Commission has launched an in-depth investigation into the Spanish state for giving financial aid to coal power plants in exchange for installing filters to reduce polluting emissions, the EC announced on Monday.
According to the Commission, the Spanish state could have been paying the plants in an effort to assist them to meet environmental standards that were already mandatory under European Union law.
If you pollute, you pay this is a long-standing principle in EU environmental law. EU State aid rules do not allow Member States to relieve companies of this responsibility using taxpayer money, said Margrethe Vestager, the Commissioner for Competition.
She said that if Spain was granting plants financial incentives for something that was already compulsory, then the plants could have been receiving an unfair competitive advantage.
The scheme, set up in 2007, allowed plants to receive 8,750 euros ($10,444) per megawatt in exchange for installing filters that reduced sulfur oxide emissions.
Over the last 10 years, 14 power plants have received more than 440 million euros in public support and payments are expected to continue until 2020.
The financial support may breach a long-standing principle of EU State aid rules, namely that Member States may not grant State aid to companies to meet mandatory environmental EU standards, read an EC statement.