Brussels Secretary of State Barbara Trachte is also working on direct aid for companies with a high sensitivity to rising energy prices.
As during the covid emergency, companies may not be entitled to the same energy aid, depending on the postcode of their business. Last Friday the Federal announced the planned measures: temporary unemployment, moratorium on bankruptcies, reduction of excise duties. There was also talk of fiscal immunization of regional aid. In the eyes of the Brussels Secretary of State for Economic Transition Barbara Trachte (Ecolo), this sounds like an admission of helplessness. “During the meetings, the companies had clearly asked an egalitarian approach between the Regions. However, the Federal has not decided anything in terms of pricing policy for companies when it is within its competence or that of Europe, ”he complains.
It will therefore be up to the Regions to make the most effective use of the funds available to protect the companies most sensitive to rising energy prices. Last Thursday Barbara Trachte put on the table of the Brussels government a series of short-term measures, called “shields”, aimed at protecting economic actors, and others, in the longer term, consisting in accelerating their economic transition. Established during the pandemic, the Economics Task Force – which had just been paused – is also reactivated.
Some regional measures are already underway. Therefore, companies with a Recover or Oxygen loan from finance & invest.brussels will be able to obtain a moratorium that extends until March 31, 2023. Further funding will be granted to UCM and Bruxeo for the Energy packages, which allow to realize energy audits and support companies.
Ensure access to energy
Other devices have yet to be perfected. This is the case of the measure aimed at guaranteeing the continuity of access to energy. Discussions are ongoing with the four energy suppliers active in the Brussels Region and the Brussels Guarantee Fund in order to find solutions to power outages in the event of non-payment, which effectively brings economic activity to a halt. “The protected customer status was not transposable to companies. We are looking for a model that does not put suppliers in difficulty“, Assures the ecologist.
When companies struggle to get an offer from an energy supplier, regional guarantees may be granted.
“Companies need to be made independent of price fluctuations as soon as possible.”
The Brussels government will put its hands in the wallet to provide direct aid to businesses. Unlike the covid crisis, all economic activities are potentially impacted, but it will be a question of helping the sectors with the highest energy sensitivity, relying in particular on IBSA’s monitoring. “We are examining the measures taken in Flanders, France and Germany. This will likely be a comparison between current bills and those of previous years which will assume a percentage of the increase“, Barbara Trachte anticipates.
For the Secretary of State it is fundamental do not deprive the most fragile companies of aid for the energy transition. “Since we don’t know how long this crisis will last, we need to ensure that companies are independent of price fluctuations as soon as possible.”
It is in this context that the establishment of the Economic Transition Fund, foreseen by the majority agreement of 2019, has been accelerated. Through loans, bank co-financing, quasi-equity debt or investments in minority interests, the Economic Transition Fund will realize investments up to 1.5 million to improve the energy efficiency of a company.
Smaller structures will benefita new Ecoreno-type loan for businesses. Developed by Brusoc, this ultra-soft loan will be used to finance renovations and energy savings. These loans will complement the Renolution bonuses. In 2022, the Brussels Region will allocate a budget of 35 million to this energy bonus program for both families and businesses.