March 7, 2008
Energy ministers from the 27 EU member states held a “lively discussion” on the Commission’s controversial proposal to split up energy firms, agreeing only to send the matter back to diplomats in view of a deal in June.In its third liberalisation ‘package’ proposals unveiled on 19 September 2007, the Commission left member states with two options to complete the liberalisation of the EU energy sector:
- Forcing big energy firms to sell off their power transmission and gas storage assets in order to keep these activities fully separate from energy production (‘Ownership unbundling’), or;
- allowing firms to maintain ownership of their transmission assets but leave their management to an Independent System Operator (ISO) responsible for taking investment and commercial decisions.
The discussion, held over lunch on Thursday (28 February), gave rise to a head-on confrontation between proponents of full ‘ownership unbundling’ and countries opposed to the Commission’s proposal.Under the EU executive’s plan, vertically-integrated energy giants, such as Germany’s E.ON and France’s EDF, would be forced to sell-off their transmission assets to focus exclusively on energy production and supply.The pro-unbundling camp won a major victory ahead of the meeting on Thursday with a surprise announcement by E.ON that it was ready to sell-off its electricity assets in return for
Brussels’ clemency regarding ongoing antitrust investigations in the German electricity sector.However, E.ON’s decision has so far not effected the German government’s opposition to unbundling.”It is clear that member states have different views,” said Slovenian minister of economy Andrej Vizjak at a press conference after the meeting.Speaking to EurActiv, EU energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs confirmed: “At this stage, we know that member countries have very different opinions – their opinion on ownership unbundling hasn’t converged.”
At the same time, he added that there is “a political spirit to find solutions” in view of the June Energy Council. “We are at the beginning of a difficult path until June but at least we will try our best to try and find a solution in the Council and I very much believe that Parliament will help member countries to find a final compromise. Political will is there.”
From Eur ActivAuthor : EMI