Intrigue as public consultation over €63 million Bensafrim solar plant closes

Intrigue as public consultation over €63 million Bensafrim solar plant closes‘People’s tabloid’ Correio da Manhã has injected a shot of intrigue into plans for a €63 million solar plant to be run by two former EDP directors on a property in Bensafrim, in the western Algarve.

The plans have recently been open for the statutory period of public consultation, which closed last Friday.

Bloco do Esquerda MPs João Vasconcelos and Jorge Costa have already queried the venture, suggesting it will cost taxpayers as much as a €100 million over 20 years (click here).

Now, CM appears to have had access to an email that shows “families” (ergo, consumers) will indeed end up footing Hyperion’s bill.

The cost - by way of an €80 million subsidy - was set out in the email dated 11.12 pm on July 2, 2013, says the paper.

The significance of that date is that it is the day of Paulo Portas’ famous “irrevocable” resignation (which was revoked almost the minute the former CDS-PP leader tendered it, bringing him back into the centre-right government of the time’s fold as deputy prime minister).

According to CM, the issue has now spurred other MPs from other parties to ‘demand explanations’ from the economy ministry.

Many questions hang in the air, not least the fact that new renewable energies should not be subsidised by consumers of electricity.

CM says this was a government pledge. Yet Hyperion’s apparent deal was sanctioned by environment agency APA and involved paying the company “values above the market price”.

CM suggests that APA “does not have the competence” to set tariffs “and no-one can explain the date and hour of the email”.

Público too carried the story, but gave it a different slant.

The paper claimed last week that the government and Hyperion are now at loggerheads, as there appears to be no relevant paperwork to show Portugal even agreed with Brussels for the project to go ahead with such a hefty subsidy.

Hyperion claims that the former centre-right government rubber-stamped the venture with the European Commission in 2014.

Says Hyperion, the photovoltaic technology involved is “pioneering”.

Curiously, this is also a venture that appears to employ almost no-one.

CM says staff will be “between one and three”, thus there appear to be few ‘benefits’ for anyone other than the business people involved.

Hyperion is essentially a group, headed up in this instance by former EDP directors João Talone and Pedro Mendes.

CM says Talone is also the founder of billion euro Iberian fund Magnum Capital, and was recently appointed to the consultative council of the Bank of Portugal.

Magnum Capital’s website says Talone is also chairman of renewables company Iberwind which has wind farms throughout the country.

The ‘loggerheads’ with the current Executive is not simply over the subsidies that Hyperion says it negotiated three years ago, but over the company’s claim to be in line for community and national support as well, to the tune of €40 million.

In other words, the State stands to inject millions for the project to get it underway, and then see consumers taxed further millions over the course of the next 20 years.

What makes the issue so complicated is that it is all based on Hyperion’s affirmation of agreements made with a government that has now gone - and there is no papertrail to back any of it up.

Público says that Secretary of State Pedro Nuno Santos has told MPs he cannot confirm the existence of any subsidy agreements with the European Commission, and thus, for now, the public consultation period may be over, but the project itself - planned for 250 hectares on an area known as Herdade de Saberosa - may be a long way from getting started.

By natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

Article by kind permission of Portugal Resident

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