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Companies with higher energy consumption must engage an energy policy officer, and the rules regarding the mandatory energy audits has also changed effective as of late December 2016. Those companies failing to comply with the new requirements may face serious fines in the future.

Effective as of late December 2016, companies whose energy consumption exceeds certain levels set out in the relevant government decree must engage an energy policy office. Pursuant to the amendments introduced to the energy efficiency laws, effective as of 21 December 2016, each company must engage an energy policy officer if its average energy consumption in the three years preceding the relevant year exceeded (i) 400,000 kWh of electricity, (ii) 100,000 m3 of natural gas, or (iii) 3,4000 GJ of heat.

The main task of the officer will be to help spread the energy efficiency approach and practices within the company by participating, as professional advisors and consultants, in the regular energy audits, and to prepare a report on the company's energy consumption habits and energy saving results. The companies must publish the yearly report prepared by the energy audit officer by the last day of May following the relevant year. The energy policy officer can be a private individual who must be independent from the company engaging him/her and have the relevant specialization and professional experience in the energy field, as well as the exam required by law. A company may also be engaged as an energy policy officer, provided that it engages, under a legal relationship prescribed by law, at least one private individual who meets the above mentioned requirements. A company which is required to appoint an energy policy officer must report his/her/its appointment to the Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Office (HEO) within 30 days from the appointment. Failing to report the engagement of an energy policy officer may result in fines between HUF 200,000 and HUF 2,000,000. As an interim relief, the HEO will not impose fines for failing to report the engagement of an energy policy officer until 30 June 2017; however, from the amendment it seems that such relief does not apply to the breach of the company's obligation to engage an energy policy officer.

Hereinafter, companies which are required to engage an energy policy officer must also provide certain data to the HEO regarding their levels of energy consumption, and the energy savings achieved by the energy efficiency actions undertaken by the relevant company – this obligation previously only applied to large enterprises. Failing to comply with said reporting obligations may result in fines up to HUF 1,000,000 - which can be imposed repeatedly while the noncompliance continues.

The amendments of the provisions relating to the mandatory energy audits intend to help dispel uncertainties that arose in practice regarding the large enterprises' obligation to prepare an energy audit every four years: the starting date of the four-year period is the day on which the previous energy audit report was prepared; and that a company which is qualified as a large enterprise after 5 December 2015 will have to prepare its first energy audit report by June 30 following the year in which that company was required to register as such with the HEO, regardless of the occurrence of said registration. However, the latter provision does not apply to companies which, on 5 December 2015, already qualified as large enterprises and were not exempted from the obligation to prepare an energy audit. As a new provision, large enterprises will have to pay a registration fee of HUF 100,000 for the repeating annual registration, and the HEO will keep and publish on its homepage a registry of large enterprises. Failing to comply with the registration obligation may result in fines up to HUF 1,000,000, and failing to prepare an energy audit up to HUF 10,000,000 (which fines, in each case, may be imposed repeatedly while the non compliance continues). As an interim relief, however, the HEO will not impose fines for failing to prepare an energy audit until 30 June 2017.

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