EU Commissioner for Energy
The Importance of ACER for the Internal Energy Market
Speech of Commissioner Oettinger at the Opening ceremony of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER)
Ljubljana, 3 March 2011
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to participate in today's ceremony for opening the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators here in Ljubljana.
Today marks a historic milestone in Europe's single energy market.
Today, a full set of new rules for the liberalisation of Europe's energy markets turns from paper into reality. These rules will deliver on citizens' and the economy's needs for a more competitive, sustainable and secure supply of energy.
ACER is a crucial element in this new architecture of Europe's internal energy market.
The internal market and benefits for consumers
The internal market is a market where gas and electricity can freely be traded across borders.
It is a market open to competition where efficient suppliers can enter new countries and new markets to challenge large energy companies and bring prices down.
And it is a market where consumers are protected against abusive behaviour of dominant energy companies.
In this internal market, consumers have a free choice of supplier, and benefit from security of supply and as well from service quality.
A recent European Commission study published in November showed that EU consumers could save on average €100 per year if they switched to the cheapest electricity offer available to them.
Towards full liberalization
The process of opening and integrating Europe's energy markets started more than ten years ago. It has been a step-by-step process, accompanied by several legislative packages.
With the coming into force, today, of the Third energy package, a major step forward is made towards the completion of Europe's internal energy market. However, let me emphasise that without the transposition of the Third package into national law, a truly integrated European market will not be achieved. I therefore urge Member States to do the utmost to adopt their national laws and systems as soon as possible. And I can only underline again that the Commission stands ready to help where necessary. The Commission will closely monitor the progress and will launch infringement procedures when appropriate.
The important role of national regulators
When the Second Package for the liberalisation of the energy markets entered into force in 2003, Member States set up national regulatory authorities to ensure that suppliers and network companies operate correctly and actually provide the services promised to their customers.
National regulators play a crucial role. They supervise both network operators and energy suppliers and ensure that market rules are complied with to the benefit of consumers.
I should like to use this opportunity to congratulate the national regulators present here today for the work they have been doing so far in the interest of Europe's citizens:
Your work is not always visible to the large public as the regulation of energy is sometimes a rather technical matter. But if consumers in a country pay fair prices for electricity and gas and can freely choose their supplier in a well functioning market, it is also thanks to the national regulator.
Let me emphasise that the Third energy package significantly broadens your competences and strengthens your independent position. Much is therefore expected from you in the years to come.
From ERGEG to ACER
National Regulators also play a key role in enabling the development towards an open, integrated and competitive pan-European energy market: Interconnecting Member States and markets means interconnecting energy policies.
Energy regulation is increasingly becoming a European task, the more Europe's energy markets are moving closer together.
The Commission had already in 2003 created for that purpose a special advisory body consisting of all national energy regulators. This "European Regulators Group for electricity and gas" has been of great value to the European Commission.
Today's inauguration of ACER marks the beginning of a new era for the cross-border cooperation between Europe's energy regulators.
ERGEG's valuable work will be continued in an even more effective and powerful framework which is ACER.
Dear Prime Minister Pahor, your country is indeed hosting an important European Agency. Let me just list some of the competencies which ACER will exercise.
First, ACER will develop Guidelines that act as a blueprint for harmonizing national grid codes. ACER will thereby help the European Union to remove technical obstacles for trading gas and electricity across borders.
Second, ACER has far reaching competences to solve conflicts between regulators if they cannot agree on how to regulate cross border pipelines and electricity cables.
This competency to solve conflicts is important, as Europe will build large new electricity "highways" from the North to the South, as well as natural gas pipeline systems from the Caspian region to the center of Europe, and within Europe.
Third, ACER is competent to supervise the work undertaken by the European Networks of Transmission System Operators. ACER will provide an opinion on their Statutes and Articles of Association and will verify the consistency of network codes developed by the ENTSos with ACER's Guidelines.
Fourth, ACER has broad advisory functions to the Commission. Most importantly, ACER will regularly monitor the internal market and point to possible improvements.
2020 Agenda and way ahead
Our expectations in ACER, and in ACER's director Alberto Pototschnig, are therefore high and the challenges ahead are considerable.
In 2011 we must switch into a higher gear to achieve the Internal Energy Market.
The Treaty of Lisbon has given a boost to Europe's energy policy. It lays down for the first time concrete goals of a common European energy policy: Safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy are major priorities for the EU.
We must complete the internal energy market by 2014 at the latest, by developing and putting in place all EU-wide network codes and removing all technical barriers to allow gas and electricity to flow freely within the EU.
For electricity, we must develop Europe's grid infrastructure to deploy more renewable energy plants in Europe, both small and large scale, on- and offshore.
We also need to implement new technologies to increase the efficiency of electricity supply and demand, including smart meters and intelligent grid management.
And we need to ensure the stability of the system for the supply security of all consumers.
For gas, the crisis of 2009 showed us where our weaknesses are. With gas imports rising every year, we should have a variety of suppliers to choose from, rather than, as now, depending on few players outside the EEA for some 80% of our imports.
Thanks to Slovenian Government
I am therefore happy that it was possible to set up ACER in record time.
This success is certainly the merit of director Pototschnig and his small but efficient team, but also and foremost thanks to the great support which the Commission obtained from the Slovenian government over the last twelve months.
The fact that ACER today becomes reality is also your success.
Let me conclude these words by thanking you, Prime Minister Pahor, as well as your government for this fruitful cooperation.
Thank you for your attention.