EU OKs energy breaks for Alcoa in Sicily, Sardinia

But extension based on market conditions continuing

EU OKs energy breaks for Alcoa in Sicily, Sardinia

(ANSA) - Brussels, October 3 - The European Commission approved on Wednesday the extension until 2015 of certain energy discounts for companies such as US aluminium giant Alcoa operating in Sardinia and Sicily. The commission concluded that the discounts are still necessary, are remunerated at market value, and therefore do not constitute state aid. But Joaquin Almunia, EU Antitrust Commissioner, made clear that the extension is based on current market conditions continuing. In a press release, the Commissioner explained the discounts are related to agreements with large electricity consumers that accept cuts in their energy service without notice. In 2010, Brussels had previously approved the energy discounts, noting that service interruptions are common in Sicily and Sardinia, despite improvements made to the electricity grids on the two islands. Italy has said that there will be a new energy auction system put in place, so the extension is limited to the end of 2015. Deeper and broader energy price breaks have become contentious recently. Alcoa has already announced plans to close its aluminium smelter on Sardinia, triggering work protests and an intense hunt to find a buyer. Global giant Glencore was interested in taking over the smelter in Portovesme, but last month pulled out, saying the energy costs were too high. The government is said to be reviewing other proposals.

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