EU regulators to investigate Spanish scheme for coal power plants

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU state aid regulators opened an investigation on Monday into Spain’s environmental incentives for coal power plants, concerned that the scheme may give the facilities an unfair advantage.

Fourteen coal power plants have received more than 440 million euros ($525 million) for installing new sulphur oxide filters since the scheme was introduced in 2007, with the payments due to continue until 2020.

The European Commission said such incentives to reduce harmful sulphur oxide emissions may not have been justified as coal power plants were already required by EU environmental laws to do so.

“We are concerned that the support gave these coal power plants an unfair competitive advantage,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The EU competition enforcer can order governments to recover illegal state subsidies.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop