State aid: Commission amends General Block Exemption rules to further facilitate and speed up green and digital transition

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The European Commission has endorsed a targeted amendment to the General Block Exemption Regulation (‘GBER’) to further facilitate, simplify and speed up support for the EU’s green and digital transitions.

Together with the new Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework, this targeted amendment aims at making it easier for the Member States to grant necessary support for key sectors in line with the Green Deal Industrial Plan.

Green Deal GBER amendment

The GBER declares specific categories of State aid compatible with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, provided that they fulfil certain conditions. It therefore exempts these categories from the requirement of prior notification to and approval by the Commission, enabling Member States to grant the aid directly and informing the Commission only ex-post.

Today’s amendment grants Member States more flexibility to design and implement support measures in sectors that are key for the transition to climate neutrality and to a net-zero industry. It will help speeding up investment and financing for clean tech production in Europe, in line with the Green Deal Industrial Plan.

The new rules reflect the recent changes to various sets of State aid Guidelines to ensure that the GBER remains fit for the green and digital transition.

They will also set the right foundations to tackle some of the economic effects stemming from Russia’s war against Ukraine and contribute to the recovery of Europe’s economy, affected also by the coronavirus pandemic and the high energy prices.

In particular, the revised rules:

Increase and streamline the possibilities for aid in the area of environmental protection and energy, among others to support the rollout of renewable energy, decarbonisation projects, green mobility and biodiversity, as well as to facilitate investments in renewable hydrogen and to increase energy efficiency;
Facilitate the implementation of certain projects involving beneficiaries in several Member States, such as Important Projects of Common European Interest (‘IPCEI’), in the research and development field, by increasing the aid intensities as well as the notification thresholds;
Extend the possibilities for training and reskilling across sectors by exempting from notification training aid below €3 million;
Block exempt aid measures set up by Member States to regulate prices for energy such as electricity, gas and heat produced from natural gas or electricity;
Introduce a very significant increase of notification thresholds for environmental aid as well as for Research, Development and Innovation (‘RDI’) aid;
Clarifies and streamlines the possibilities for risk finance aid, for small and medium-sized enterprises (‘SMEs’) and start-ups, as well as for financial products supported by the InvestEU Fund;
Prolongs the GBER until the end of 2026 for legal certainty and regulatory stability;
Increases the thresholds in the GBER even beyond the areas under specific review to cater for the longer period of validity of the rules; and
Aligns the provisions of the GBER with the new Regional Aid Guidelines, the Climate, Energy and Environmental State aid Guidelines, the Risk Finance Guidelines, the Research, Development and Innovation Framework and the Broadband Guidelines.