Regulator warns Spanish utilities over ‘misleading’ ads for green power
Advertising for guaranteed “green” power by Spain’s two largest utilities Endesa and Iberdrola could be misleading, Spain’s energy regulator said on Friday.
Spain has no legal means to enable suppliers to guarantee that electricity from the wholesale market is from renewable sources, the National Energy Commission (CNE) said in a report. This is because Spain has not implemented European Commission measures to allow suppliers to prove they have bought enough renewable energy to cover their sales.
The regulator singled out Iberdrola for criticism “Iberdrola’s advertising contains information that could lead to deception of the consumer,” the CNE said. Lack of information could confuse consumers, it said.
Offers by Endesa and others to plant a tree for every new green consumer merely added to the confusion, according to the CNE. “It is open to question whether clients would sign up for green energy if they knew that the only tangible consideration that would justify the 2% increase in their prices is the planting of a tree at a cost of EUR 2.5 euros,” it said.
The CNE concluded that there was nothing illegal about the companies’ “green” activities. The regulator plans to pass its report on to the competition commission and consumer protection authorities.
Of the three generators offering green power, the only one using solely renewable sources, the minor hydro company Electra Norte, is also the only one with no extra charge.
Spain’s large hydro capacity, and so far minor “green” sales, mean that Iberdrola and Endesa have no need to buy extra renewable electricity, say industry sources.
Endesa has no plans to make any changes as a result of the report, a spokesman said. The company’s “green” offer is the same as that made by utilities in the rest of Europe in that sales are covered by supply, he said. An average household would pay an extra EUR 6 per year for “green” power.
Iberdrola said it changed its advertising last year to take into account concerns about its “green” energy. The company, Spain’s largest hydro and renewables generator, said it had signed up 10,000 households and 500 business for “green” electricity since the offer started last year.
Extra charges are illegal for most renewables because they are covered by subsidies worth EUR 1 billion a year. Renewables falling under this special regime are hydro plants of less than 10 MW capacity, wind power, biomass and solar energy. Thus Endesa’s and Iberdrola’s green offer includes only power from large hydro plants. DM
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