Czech watchdog alleges ex-staff fixed high solar tariffs

Mon Feb 4, 2013 12:24pm EST

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Feb 4 (Reuters) - The Czech energy watchdog wants prosecutors to file charges against some of its former staff on allegations they set solar power tariffs at levels higher than allowed by law, costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, it said.

The Energy Regulatory Office has made a complaint against an unspecified number of former employees. The issue involves guaranteed feed-in tariffs paid to solar investors out of consumers' electricity bills.

"The complaint was submitted to the state prosecutor's office due to a suspicion whether an offence occurred there ... with damages estimated of a large scale in the order of tens of billions of crowns," it said in a statement on Monday.

The tariffs were designed to encourage construction of small renewable energy installations.

An audit ordered by the head of the office, Alena Vitaskova, found what the office said were serious offences by former employees in the process of setting the tariffs, under the regulator's former management. No other details were available.

Tariff support for renewable energy will cost Czech consumers and taxpayers 43 billion crowns ($2.3 billion) this year, the government estimates, which has stirred complaints from homes and businesses socked with higher power bills. ($1 = 18.9552 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jan Korselt; Writing by Michael Kahn; Editing by Jane Baird)

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