Gov’t-Presidency row over renewable energy issue

Energy specialists state that PM Ponta is “in a serious error.” Industry unions take part in protests.

The government will issue a new ordinance on the lowering of the green certificates’ level if President Traian Basescu continues to refuse to promulgate the law that approves a similar ordinance that has been in Parliament for a very long time.
“The solution is to go over the President and to defend the Romanian industry and consumers, possibly through a new ordinance if he continues to refuse to promulgate the law,” Premier Victor Ponta stated during the government meeting yesterday, being quoted by Mediafax. According to the Head of Government, “the biggest danger Romania is going through in 2014” is that of the “explosion” of electricity prices because the President has twice refused to promulgate the law that lowers the level of green certificates, the prices remaining constant as a result. “If we are to do what President Basescu says all bills will grow by 50 percent for the industrial sector – and I want to express my full solidarity with the employees of Alro, Sidex and other companies – and by 50 per cent for household consumers too,” Ponta said.
After PM Ponta told the members of industry sector unions who were protesting outside the Government building that they should do so at the Presidential Palace because President Basescu is the one refusing to promulgate the law on the green certificates and is “undermining” the national economy in this manner, the Head of State replied during his press conference that the law on green certificates went to Parliament and was sent back because an approval from the European Commission was expected, adding he has nothing against the promulgation right after the procedures are concluded. After the President’s statement, the Government issued a communique accusing the president once again of misleading the public “directly and irresponsibly,” on the issue of green certificates, reasserting that the law was voted in the Parliament, but was blocked by the President.

President Basescu was due to hold a press conference later last evening on the same issue.
The Romanian Photovoltaic Industry Association (RPIA) however claims that Ponta is “in a serious error” and that his statements are not true. According to the RPIA, the green certificates were lowered through an emergency ordinance in 2013, one that came into force at the start of this year. Consequently, for approximately three months the solar power, wind power and hydro power projects that came online after that date already benefit from a lowered number of green certificates (3 green certificates for solar power, 1.5 green certificates for wind power and 2.3 green certificates for hydro power of up to 10 MW). Moreover, the price of electricity has constantly dropped because of renewable energy, according to OPCOM which also reveals the fact that from January to June 2012 the price of a green certificate stood at RON 246, while in March 2014 the price dropped to RON 160. “We are once again asking for caution when it comes to issuing incorrect information about a domain in which over EUR 6 bln has been invested in Romania and which has so far generated over EUR 450 M for the state budget in the form of taxes,” the RPIA representatives claim.
The law was attacked by President Basescu at the Constitutional Court because the law’s initiator (the government) did not act in line with the European Union treaties, a fact that would expose Romania to infringement procedures. The government’s Energy Department however claimed it has observed all procedures in the relationship with the European Commission when it came to modifying the renewable energy legislation, pointing out that President Traian Basescu did not take into account “essential data in the process of communication with the EC.”
Meanwhile, protests have started in Bucharest, industry sector unions organizing protests outside the Constitutional Court yesterday and announcing similar protests in Victoriei Square today. Union members demand an urgent solution to the ordinance issued by the government on the issue of renewable energy, as well as a stop to the over-taxation of electricity and to the rapid liberalization of the price of natural gas.
Presidential spokesperson Bogdan Oprea stated that Premier Victor Ponta’s statements about the energy price hikes are “deliberate lies,” pointing out that the Premier is the only one who wants to hike prices in Romania.

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