Speak Up Energy

Small businesses will simply not invest in the energy-saving technologies that are essential to reaching the EU’s climate change objectives without a fine-tuning of state aid rules, according to UEAPME, the association of small and medium-sized enterprises in
Europe.

Speaking at a round table on the role of public support for environmental protection on Tuesday (27 May), Andrea Benassi, UEAPME’s secretary general, said “increasing awareness of energy saving opportunities must be the first step of a successful strategy” to reduce energy consumption”. However, “this will not happen without public support,” he stressed.According to UEAPME, Europe will simply not be able to reach its ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by a fifth by 2020 “unless the attractiveness of investing in energy efficiency and energy savings is dramatically improved”.

“Energy efficiency rarely tops the list of investment priorities for small entrepreneurs,” Benassi explained, saying small entrepreneurs “also tend to systematically underestimate their energy savings potential”. “Even when small companies are properly informed and ready to take action on energy efficiency, the costs of the investments needed are often a key barrier.

“Speaking at the round table, Neelie Kroes, the EU’s competition commissioner, said the EU executive’s revised environmental state aid guidelines, which entered into force in April this year, were “actually very generous”.

“Compared to the previous guidelines they generally allow for higher amounts of aid,” Kroes said.

“Also, they cover several new measures – like aid for acquisition of clean transport vehicles.”In addition, Kroes insisted that markets, not governments, will provide solutions in most cases. “Often you won’t need state aid – the changes will pay for themselves, or new costs will be balanced by new markets,” Kroes said, also referring to the EU’s emissions trading scheme.But according to UEAPME, the revised environmental state aid guidelines did not go far enough. The European Commission, it said, is still standing by a request to have energy savings costs certified by an external auditor. “This will create a major entry barrier for small businesses,” stressed Mr. Benassi, who called on Ms. Kroes to “delete this burdensome clause in the next General Block Exemption Regulation”.”We hope that the European Commission will work to fill these gaps and allow aid providers to give SMEs the support they need,” said Benassi.

From EurActiv

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