EC investigates charges of discrimination made against Navarra government by turbine maker MTorres

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The European Commission has opened a fair-trading investigation into allegations that the regional government of Navarra has discriminated in favour of wind operator Corporación Energía Hidroeléctrica de Navarra (CEHN), a semi-public company. The allegations come from MTorres, a Navarran technological company which has been developing its own turbine technology since 1999. CEHN -- formerly EHN -- operates around 550 MW of the 700 MW online in Navarra, as well as holding shares in other wind developments in the region. MTorres is asking that CEHN's overall share in regional wind capacity to be cut to below 50%, citing articles 82 and 86 of the European Union Treaty, which establish the bases of equal opportunities between public and private enterprises. CEHN landed its rights to build wind plant on large tracts of Navarra in a regional government concession in 1997. At the time, public institutions owned 48% of the company, a share that has increased to 50% today. Concessions also went to smaller development plans from three other companies in 1997, but the Navarra government subsequently clamped a lid on all further wind development -- other than small research and development (R&D) projects -- citing environmental and grid restrictions. More recently, the government passed a further regulation restricting the active life of R&D wind projects to three years. "Turbine fatigue is one of the main areas of study in R&D plants and three years is not enough time for proper testing. The regulation seems tailor-made to keep competitors like MTorres out of Navarra," says MTorres. The company has gone through Brussels, rather than national legal channels "to guarantee a fair hearing." CEHN's only statement is that the charges "lack any foundation whatsoever."

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