Government freezes subsidies for energy advice amid fraud concerns


The government has frozen a scheme to subsidise advice for small businesses looking to improve their sustainability because of concerns about fraud.

The funding stream, known as SVM, was started last year to cover the costs of professional energy reports for small and medium sized businesses.

Energy minister Rob Jetten said in a letter to parliament he had suspended the scheme because the government enterprise agency RVO had raised concerns that the system was being abused by a handful of large advisers.

Jetten said the RVO was aware of cases of ‘business owners being misled and put under pressure by advisers passing themselves off as RVO staff or giving the impression that it is compulsory to obtain an energy advice report’.

So far €8 million of the €28.2 allocated for the scheme has been paid out or reserved, but the vast majority of applications have been made in the last three months.

Low threshold

Jetten said the threshold for applying had been set low to make it accessible for very small businesses such as local cafés, but in hindsight it may have been too easy to access the funding.

ME Rapport, a company that created a software package allowing companies to process an application in as little as 10 minutes, said it was disappointed by the decision to suspend the funding.

A company director who declined to give his name told the Financieele Dagblad that it had submitted reports for around 5,000 companies, all of which had been approved.

‘The minister’s decision will affect 150 to 200 people in our company, including our partners. Together with our competitors that adds up to around 500 people.’

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