20 Mar (NucNet): The European Commission has found Belgian plans to compensate Engie-Electrabel and EDF Belgium for potential financial risks linked to the long-term operation of three nuclear reactors in Belgium to be in line with EU state aid rules.
In 2014 and 2015, Belgium concluded two agreements with Engie-Electrabel and EDF Belgium to prolong the operational lifetime of the Doel-1 and Doel-2 reactors, owned by Engie-Electrabel, and Tihange-1, owned by Engie-Electrabel with EDF Belgium.
Under the agreements, the companies will invest around €1.3bn in exchange for authorisation to run the plants for until 2025.
The companies would receive financial compensation if Belgium decides to close the reactors before the end of the 10-year period, modifies the level of nuclear tax to be paid by the owners or changes other economic parameters of the agreements.
Belgium has argued that nuclear energy requires long-term commitment and these guarantees were necessary to secure the companies’ investment.
The Commission found that the investment guarantees provide an economic advantage to Engie-Electrabel and EDF which goes beyond what they would have been entitled to under general Belgian law. Under EU rules, such state aid has to be “limited and proportionate to the objectives pursued”.
However, the Commission said Belgium has shown that the measures avoid undue distortions of the Belgian energy market.
There will be an obligation on Engie-Electrabel – the major player on Belgian electricity markets – to sell on regulated electricity markets each year a volume equivalent to Engie-Electrabel’s share of the three plants’ annual production.
This will ensure liquidity on Belgian electricity markets and help increase competition between electricity suppliers.
There are seven reactor units in commercial operation in Belgium, four at Doel and three at Tihange. Together, they generate about 55% of the country’s electricity.
In 2003 the government finalised plans to phase out nuclear energy, but Doel-1, Doel-2 and Tihange-1 are being allowed to extend their operation to avoid the risk of blackouts.
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