Flemish coalition partners clash about solar panels

February 25, 2021

22:25

Open VLD chairman Egbert Lachaert wants the Flemish government to give owners of solar panels additional support. Energy Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) is not pleased with the demarche.

The solar panel dossier continues to simmer in the Flemish government and leads to political resentment between the coalition partners Open VLD and N-VA. Open VLD chairman Egbert Lachaert rang the bell in ‘Villa Politica’, where he asked for an extra measure of support for the victims of the early extinction of the rollback counter.

‘I don’t think the support mechanism that exists now is sufficient. We need to find an additional compensation mechanism, ”said Lachaert. Flemish Deputy Prime Minister Bart Somers (Open VLD) has already put the question on the government table, Lachaert tells De Tijd. “But the Demir cabinet has refused until now.”

‘Marghempje’

Flemish Energy Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) is not pleased with Lachaert’s demarche. ‘Mister Lachaert would communicate better through his government ministers instead of one Marghempje to do. The worst answer to broken promises is new empty promises. I do politics in a different way, ‘she wrote on Twitter.

Demir thus refers to the former Federal Energy Minister Marie-Christine Marghem (MR), who was instructed to work out an alternative scheme for the reversing counter with the regions, but failed to do so. She also notes that the entire government has approved the current aid measure, including Somers.

1.200 euro

At the end of January, Demir already developed a support mechanism of 1,200 euros for families who can no longer enjoy the revolving counter for the full 15 years. Her predecessors Bart Tommelein (Open VLD) and Lydia Peeters (Open VLD) had promised that that was possible, but constitutional Court destroyed that scheme. For many families with solar panels, this is a financial loss.

“I fear that something extra will be needed, because you can clearly see that a large group is not going to accept Demir’s arrangement,” says Lachaert. This week it became known in De Tijd that 10,500 owners of solar panels legal action taking action against the Flemish government.

Heat pump

The Open VLD chairman is also looking in the direction of families with a heat pump, because they have it hardest hit be by the decision of the Constitutional Court. Lachaert wants the Flemish government to provide investment support to families who had such a pump installed, on top of all the other grants they receive.

But in the draft compensation scheme, which is before the Council of State, Demir provides for a smaller premium of 400 euros for heat pump owners. The Demir cabinet points out that the investment support that Lachaert wants can run into discrimination objections. ‘I understand that it should be legal, but I also understood that she would investigate this further,’ says Lachaert. “I’m quite indignant that she just slams the door on that.”

‘Collective error’

Lachaert also protects Tommelein and Peeters. They received a lot of criticism for their diligence in the solar panel file. Tommelein promised that solar panel owners could enjoy the revolving counter for at least another 15 years. Under Peeters, his successor, parliament gave its approval.

In doing so, they went against the advice of the Council of State and the energy regulator VREG, which warned that the scheme would not last. ‘I think that the political collective has gone wrong. One shouldn’t look at one or two people, ‘says Lachaert.

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