State aid: Commission approves €3 billion scheme under the Spanish Recovery and Resilience Plan to support research, development, innovation, environmental protection and energy efficiency in automotive value chain

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €3 billion Spanish scheme to support research, development and innovation (RD&I), as well as environmental protection and energy efficiency measures of companies in the value chain for electric and connected vehicles. The measure will help Spain to accelerate the transition towards a more sustainable and connected mobility, without unduly distorting competition. The scheme will be partly funded by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (‘RRF’), following the Commission’s positive assessment of the Spanish Recovery and Resilience Plan and its adoption by the Council.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €3 billion Spanish scheme will help enable an innovative and sustainable value chain for electric vehicles, in line with State aid rules and the objectives of the European Green Deal. It will play an important part in the green and digital recovery of the Spanish economy, while ensuring that possible distortions of competition are minimised”.

The Spanish scheme enables (i) aid for RD&I investments, and (ii) aid for investments into environmental protection, including energy efficiency, for the implementation of several integrated projects across the entire value chain for electric and connected vehicles, within the framework of the Strategic Project for the Economy Recovery and Transformation on electric and connected vehicles (‘ECV PERTE’).[1]

It will run until the end of 2023 and is open to consortia of interested companies, established both in and outside of Spain. Each consortium will include companies active in a wide range of sectors related to electric and connected vehicles, and at least 40% of the partners will be small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs). The aid will be awarded through a competitive selection process and will take the form of direct grants and soft senior loans.

The Commission assessed the measure under EU State aid rules, in particular the 2014 Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy (‘EEAG’) and the 2014 Framework for State aid for research and development and innovation (‘RDIF’). In particular, the Commission found that:

  • the scheme is necessary to facilitate RD&I investments as well as the environmental protection investment efforts of companies, such as energy efficiency measures, in the supply chain for electric and connected vehicles. It also has an incentive effect, as the projects would not take place in the absence of public support;
  • the aid is proportionate and limited to the minimum necessary. In particular, the eligible projects, eligible costs and maximum aid intensities are defined in line with the RDIF and EEAG;
  • necessary safeguards to limit any undue negative effects are in place. In particular, (i) the maximum amount of aid for a single beneficiary will be limited; (ii) appropriate participation of SMEs in the scheme will be guaranteed; and (iii) participating companies have to demonstrate that the aid amounts requested are limited to the minimum necessary; and
  • the positive effects of the measure, in particular on the environment, the integrity of the European Research Area for the value chain and the recovery of the Spanish economy, outweigh any negative effects in terms of possible distortions of competition. Indeed, the scheme will help Spain meet its environmental targets, set at European and national level, and supports the digital transition, as it fosters investments into the connectivity of electric vehicles.

Finally, Spain also committed to carry out an ex-post evaluation to assess the effects of the scheme.

On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Spanish scheme is in line with the EU State aid rules and is in line with EU policy objectives, including those set out in the European Green Deal, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.  

The notified aid scheme is complemented by regional aid and training aid measures, which will be implemented by Spain under the General Block Exemption Regulation, and thus do not require Commission approval within today’s decision.

Background

The Commission assesses measures entailing State aid contained in the national recovery plans presented in the context of the RRF as a matter of priority and has provided guidance and support to Member States in the preparatory phases of the national plans, to facilitate the rapid deployment of the RRF.

The Commission’s 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy allow Member States to support investments for increasing the level of environmental protection as well as investments into energy efficiency, subject to certain conditions. These rules aim to help Member States meet the EU’s ambitious energy and climate targets for 2030 and 2050, as set out in the European Green Deal Communication and the European Climate Law, at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition.

The 2014 Framework for State aid for research and development and innovation enables Member States to grant aid for, inter alia, industrial research, experimental development, feasibility studies, and process and organisational innovation.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under case number SA.64685 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. The latest State aid decisions published in the Official Journal and on the internet are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.

[1] PERTE stands for Strategic Project for the Economy Recovery and Transformation (Proyecto Estratégico para la Recuperación y Transformación Económica).

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