Brussels, 26 November 2002
Loyola de Palacio: European energy market revolutionised.
The Energy Ministers reached agreement on 25 November on completely open gas and electricity markets for non-household customers by 2004 and for household customers by 2007. "This is a radical change, with European countries moving from national monopolies to full liberalisation within a few years," said Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for transport and energy. "The creation of the European energy market is a revolutionary step; it will boost the competitiveness of European businesses and benefit all our citizens". The agreement reached by the Member States also seeks to strengthen public service obligations, in particular universal service and consumer protection. The markets will be opened by establishing independent regulators and separating transmission and distribution functions from generation and the provision of services. The Council also agreed the regulation on cross-border tarification and the development of trans-European energy infrastructure. According to the Commissioner, "the single energy market is an additional guarantee of a safe, sustainable energy supply".
The main points of the agreement cover the following areas:
Timetable for market opening:
The electricity and gas markets will be fully liberalised by July 2004 for non-household customers, while all customers (households) will be able to choose their supplier by 1 July 2007 at the latest. This process will take account of a report assessing the impact of liberalisation to be presented by the Commission in 2006.
Protection of final customers and energy labelling
As proposed by the Commission, the opening of the energy markets will be accompanied by clear, stringent public service obligations (protection of final customers, universal service, possibility of rules for balancing the electricity transmission system, security of supply, investment planning obligation, etc).
The universal service obligation will apply to all households and small businesses, which will have the right to be supplied with electricity of a specified quality at reasonable prices.
In addition, the energy-labelling provisions require the contribution of each energy source to the fuel mix to be shown on energy bills as well as the environmental impact in terms, at least, of CO2 emissions and radioactive waste.
The Commission's proposal, backed by the European Parliament, requires transmission and distribution activities to be separate from generation and service provision.
The Ministers have agreed on the obligation to implement legal unbundling of transmission by July 2004, while distribution will be unbundled by July 2007. This obligation does not in any way imply unbundling of ownership in vertically integrated companies.
In the meantime, the Commission will have to present a report to the Council and the European Parliament reviewing experience gained in applying the directive, and the independence of network operators in integrated companies.
If necessary, the Commission may submit all the proposals ensuring full and effective independence of the distribution system operators earlier than scheduled. Furthermore, if it finds that the same objectives have been achieved in full through less stringent separation, the Commission may, at the request of a Member State, adopt an opinion and submit a proposal to the Council and Parliament to allow the State concerned to maintain this experience.
Access to storage:
Access to gas storage is guaranteed. It may be regulated or negotiated.
The Council also reached agreement on a draft regulation on cross-border electricity exchanges, which is crucial to the creation of a true single market as opposed to the juxtaposition of 15 liberalised markets. This proposal is mainly geared to adopting rules on cross-border tarification and congestion management for electricity.
Development of trans-European energy networks:
The Council also reached agreement on the proposal for a decision to promote interconnection, interoperability and the development of trans-European energy networks (TEN-E), and access to the networks.
The objective is to achieve 10% electricity interconnection capacity between Member States. The Barcelona European Council concluded that this crucial project was of prime importance and called for it to be adopted by the end of 2002.
The main points of this dossier concern:
Trans-European energy networks
Priority projects of European interest:
EL 1. : France Belgium Netherlands Germany: electricity networks reinforcements in order to resolve the frequent problems of congestion through the Benelux.
EL.2. : Borders of Italy with France, Austria and Switzerland: increasing electricity interconnection capacities.
EL.3. : France Spain Portugal : increasing electricity interconnection capacities between these countries and for the Iberian peninsula.
EL.4. : Greece Balkan countries UCTE System: development of electricity infrastructure to connect Greece to the UCTE System.
EL.5. : United Kingdom continental Europe and Northern Europe: establishing/increasing electricity interconnection capacities.
EL.6. : Ireland Northern Ireland United Kingdom: increasing electricity interconnection capacities.
EL.7. : Denmark Germany: increasing electricity interconnection capacity.
NG.1. : United Kingdom Netherlands Germany Russia: gas pipelines connecting the main sources of gas in Europe, improving the interoperability of the networks, and increasing the security of supply.
NG.2. : Algeria Spain France: construction of a new gas pipeline from Algeria to Spain and France, and increasing network capacities in Spain and France.
NG.3. : Caspian Sea countries Middle East European Union: new gas pipeline networks to the European Union from new sources, including the Greece-Turkey and Italy-Greece gas pipelines.
NG.4. : LNG terminals in France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy: diversifying sources of supply and entry points.
NG.5. : Underground storage in Spain, Portugal, and Greece: increasing capacity in Spain and construction of the first facilities in Portugal and Greece.
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