Flanders to reduce energy bills by tackling solar panel over-subsidisation

Flanders to reduce energy bills by tackling solar panel over-subsidisation
Flanders will be halting the over-subsidising of large-scale solar panel installations. Credit: Wikicommons

Flanders announced on Friday that it wants to reduce the energy bills of citizens and small companies by halting the over-subsidising of large-scale solar panel installations.

The region’s government agreed to pay out around €1.2 billion less in green certificates over the next ten years to investors, arguing that due to the over-subsidisation of the past, most of these installations have long since paid for themselves. Meanwhile, families still feel this past policy on their bills every day.

“The bill of single people, families and entrepreneurs should not be a jackpot for the over-subsidising of a handful of large solar panel installations. This is about fairness, and taking costs out of the bill to collect them again via taxes is blowing people’s minds,” Flemish Energy Minister Zuhal Demir said.

“With common sense, you can avoid sky-high subsidies. That is why, for the first time, we are going to get the pennies where they are: from the over-subsidised large solar panel installations,” she added.

The decision will impact about 1,200 installations from before 2013 of some 200 investors. It will not impact small household installations.

Demir stated the money would instead be used in an integrated and structural way to reduce the costs of electricity bills for everyone at low and medium voltage, from families to local shops and cafes, schools and residential care centres.

Legal leg to stand on

It is possible companies could start legal proceedings because of a possible infringement of acquired rights, however, the government stated it feels that it has a strong legal position.

“It has to be legally sound if you make such an intervention,” said Demir. “We have consulted two external lawyers and are also going to submit the regulation to the Council of State. I think by doing this we are using common sense to avoid continuing to give sky-high subsidies.”

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In the coming months, Demir will further develop the initiative into legislation, and the exact measures will be determined in the coming weeks.

“Over-subsidy is going to be eliminated in the interest of the people,” Demir says. However, the impact on the bill for families and SMEs will only be expected to be felt in the longer term.

“As the Flemish government, we do not have the levers to bring down the energy bill in the short term. Unfortunately, we cannot perform miracles in the short term and we are not going to promise them,” the region’s Minister-President Jan Jambon said.

Flanders also announced that €44 million from the climate fund would be invested in the renovation and energy strategy. “Because in the long term, that’s where the real solution to saving energy lies, of course,” Jambon said.

It already announced it would be scaling back the over-subsidisation of new renewable energy projects.

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