Flanders will compensate home owners hit by solar panel judgement

Flanders will compensate home owners hit by solar panel judgement

The Flemish government is to offer a one-off compensation to home owners affected by the court judgement on supplying solar power to the national grid.

The Constitutional Court last week struck down a Flemish system which allowed owners of solar panels to feed energy into the grid in return for energy they take out at other times.

The system used a so-called ‘roll-back counter’. Homes with solar panels could access power from the grid when solar power was low, and then when conditions were better and they became net contributors – for example during warm-sunny periods when consumption was low and production high – that would cause the counter to roll back.

In effect, they would be paying for energy used with energy produced later. And the benefit would be available for 15 years counting from this year.

The problem before the court was not over the efficiency of such a system, but over its discriminatory nature. The possibility of roll-back was only available to those who installed solar panels before 31 December 2020, and so discriminated against those who did not. Also, it discriminated against anyone who does not have solar panels.

Owners who had met the conditions were outraged when it became clear this week that the incentive that had been offered to them would no longer apply. The investment they had made in installing the solar infrastructure could no longer be earned back in the way promised.

Now Flemish energy minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) has come forward with a proposal to pay a one-time compensation of €1,500 to every home owner who installed solar panels in the period in question – or €100 a year for the 15 years the roll-back system would otherwise have operated. The exact details of the new compensation will be revealed in the coming week.

Some 100,000 households are concerned, and Demir reckoned that would allow them a return on the average investment of 5%. In the meantime, the Flemish taxpayer would have to pay up €579 million for what is essentially an administrative error.

In addition, early adopters will receive little or nothing in the way of compensation. The sum to be paid out is on a sliding scale according to how long households have been able to benefit from the roll-back counter. Anyone who installed solar panels in 2020 will get the full amount. The sum will be reduced the longer an installation has been in place.

In the first instance, 100,000 homes will be affected immediately by the change, as they already have a digital meter installed. That still leaves 470,000 homes with an analogue meter, which still allows a roll-back counter. Those homes will have to be brought up to date for the court judgement to be enacted. The government estimates the change-over will be complete by 2029.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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