May 20, 2008
The battle over energy liberalisation shifted to the gas sector yesterday (19 May) when Parliament’s industry committee threw its weight behind France and Germany in their bid to prevent the forced break-up of large integrated gas groups.MEPs on the Parliament’s industry committee voted on Monday (19 May) to reject a proposed gas directive that would force groups such as Gaz de France and RWE Gas in Germany to sell off their pipelines and storage assets in a bid to force more competition onto EU markets.The vote represents a victory for France, Germany and six other member states which have together proposed an alternative to the Commission’s controversial proposal to break up energy utilities, a process known as ‘ownership unbundling’.The committee backed a compromise text similar to the Franco-German alternative on Monday but it remains to be seen whether the full Assembly will back it again in a plenary vote scheduled on 16-19 June.Speaking after the vote, Angelika Niebler (EPP-ED, Germany), chairwoman of the Parliament’s industry committee, expressed her satisfaction with the outcome. “I am happy because we have a third-way option,” she said, according to Bloomberg.
Different approaches for gas and electricity?
Monday’s vote also indicates that a broader compromise package will eventually need to be found for both gas and electricity as the Parliament appears to be heavily divided over the issue. Indeed, in a vote on electricity earlier in May, MEPs on the industry committee decided on that occasion to back the Commission’s proposals to break up energy firms.But faced with strong resistance from France and Germany, the Commission last week tabled a compromise proposal for the gas sector only, saying it would seek a solution for electricity at a later stage.
It is this compromise proposal that the industry committee supported in its vote on Monday, although it left some of the details for decision later. “Given the very short time since the Commission presented its new compromise plans, the committee decided […] not to hold the final vote on the report to allow time for further discussions with a view to finding a broader consensus on some key issues,” stated a Parliament press release on Tuesday (20 May). “The Industry Committee will therefore return to the report and may vote on further compromise texts at its next meeting,” the statement added.
From EurActivAuthor : EMI