Green power. Transparent pockets.

When the Hungarian government changed its renewable electricity off-take law last year, it did not make world news. But there was actually a momentous change: previously any amount of green power produced had to be purchased by the wholesaler. In the new law this was changed to a different arrangement: now each green power project has to negotiate the off-take amount individually with the Hungarian Energy Office. To sit one-on-one, in the Energy Office (or perhaps in a corner of one of Budapest’s lovely cafés – as the location is not stipulated in the law), and negotiate the off-take quantity.

Just this week Poland published a draft law on greenhouse gases. It included proposed terms for banking from one phase of EUETS to the next. Banking will be allowed if it is justified on grounds of economics or on grounds of national energy security. Now, who is going to decide whether someone’s banking request is economically justified, and how?

Of course, Hungarian and Polish politics is far too clean and the moral standards of the voted representatives far too high for there to be any suggestion that these discretionary powers could be misused.

But you could imagine in some countries such powers might put great temptation into the minds of politicians, seeking funds for their political parties. Luckily in Hungary and Poland there is no risk whatsoever of this happening. Politicians are respectable, honest, folk, and their prudently, frugally run parties are well funded with charitable donations from willing citizens from all walks of life.

Take, for example, a gypsy street urchin I recently bumped into in the 9th district of Budapest. I said to him “Where are you off to, laddy, running at such a kilter?” He looked up at me, a hopeful smile breaking out on his grubby face, and said: “I’m taking this farthing round to the party offices. I earnt it a-shoe-shining. Now I want to give back to society, so I thought the most honest way would be to contribute to one of our political parties. After all, they are the ones we have to be thankful to for what we have.” Oddly, the next day I could not find my watch anywhere, but that is by-the-by.

But in countries with weaker morals, poor law enforcement, ineffective courts, and lacking the quality of politicians we have here, such legislation could even lead to corrupt and illegal practices. Perhaps the EU should ask Hungary and Poland to revise their laws, lest others take the lead from this.

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