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UK presses Europe to open energy sector

THE UK took its fight for a liberal energy market to Europe yesterday as Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister, chided his European colleagues for allowing vested interests to keep markets closed.

Mr Wicks is concerned that several members have been dragging their feet on new energy rules, which stipulates that households should, by 2007, be able to shop around for the best gas and electricity deal. Industrial users should have been able to shop around since last year but many are still prevented from doing so.

Mr Wicks, who chaired a meeting of the EU Energy Council yesterday, said: “I note a real determination from the Commission to take this forward in the interests of consumers across the EU. It’s about practice following principle and unless there is more competition, as we have in the UK, we’re not going to see prices come down significantly.”

Andris Piebalgs, the Energy Commissioner, told members that they must make implementation of the new energy rules a priority or face EU action.

“The current state of play of the internal electricity and gas markets gives cause for concern. Rapid and significant improvements are necessary,” Mr Piebalgs told ministers.

Neelie Kroes, EU Competition Commissioner, added her voice, saying that “security of supply must not be mistaken for security of incumbents”.

A European Commission report last month criticised several members for dragging their feet on the rules. Another report said that Europe’s gas and electricity markets were “malfunctioning” because of the anti-competitive influence of dominant suppliers.

Last week,... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Mr Wicks is concerned that several members have been dragging their feet on new energy rules, which stipulates that households should, by 2007, be able to shop around for the best gas and electricity deal. Industrial users should have been able to shop around since last year but many are still prevented from doing so.

Mr Wicks, who chaired a meeting of the EU Energy Council yesterday, said: “I note a real determination from the Commission to take this forward in the interests of consumers across the EU. It’s about practice following principle and unless there is more competition, as we have in the UK, we’re not going to see prices come down significantly.”

Andris Piebalgs, the Energy Commissioner, told members that they must make implementation of the new energy rules a priority or face EU action.

“The current state of play of the internal electricity and gas markets gives cause for concern. Rapid and significant improvements are necessary,” Mr Piebalgs told ministers.

Neelie Kroes, EU Competition Commissioner, added her voice, saying that “security of supply must not be mistaken for security of incumbents”.

A European Commission report last month criticised several members for dragging their feet on the rules. Another report said that Europe’s gas and electricity markets were “malfunctioning” because of the anti-competitive influence of dominant suppliers.

Last week, UK gas became the world’s most expensive fuel as the onset of freezing weather increased demand and raised fears of a supply squeeze.

A report commissioned by Centrica, owner of British Gas, found that failing to open up the European market would cost the UK as much as £10 billion next year, about £180 on every household’s energy bill.

Ofgem, the energy regulator, has asked the Commission to establish whether European utilities contributed to the price spike and abused the market by withholding gas to the UK.

ENERGISED

British companies claim several impediments to a fully competitive European energy market. Yesterday energy ministers agreed to:
*    work on implementing existing legislation
*    release more information to the market
*    increase unbundling and fair network access
*    push for more cross-border infrastructure to allow greater regional integration of national markets


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DEC 2 2005
http://www.windaction.org/posts/580-uk-presses-europe-to-open-energy-sector
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