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17th Jan 2021

EU wants to boost powers of energy oversight agency

The European Commission wants to give an EU energy agency more powers to remove barriers in the bloc's internal market, according to a draft of a strategy paper, leaked to several media.

Energy commissioners Maros Sefcovic and Miguel Arias Canete are set to unveil a “framework strategy” for the Energy Union on Wednesday (25 February).

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  • the commission wants to increase 'the powers and independence' of an EU energy agency (Photo: gazdefrance.com)

The draft version of the strategy was published online by Euractiv on Friday (20 February).

One of the goals the paper discusses is “a fully integrated European energy market”.

The paper says there is still too much market concentration in the EU's internal energy market, and required reforms have not been fully carried out across the member states.

“Today, the European Union has energy rules set at the European level, but in practice it has 28 national regulatory frameworks.”

According to the undated draft, the commission wants to increase “the powers and independence” of the Agency for the Co-operation of Energy Regulators (Acer).

The agency, less than four years old, was set up to help complete the internal energy market, but currently only gives recommendations at the request of national energy regulators.

“EU-wide regulation of the single market should be strengthened, through a significant reinforcement of the powers and independence of Acer to enable it to effectively oversee, as European regulator, the development of the internal energy market and the related market rules as well as to deal with all cross-border issues necessary to create a seamless internal market”, the paper says.

The idea of more centralised oversight of national energy regulators has already stirred controversy.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday (18 February) he is “expecting an escalating conflict” with the commission on Energy Union.

He said the EU seems to be “heading into an energy union that hinders national sovereignty”, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The EU commission downplayed the comments.

“We are days away from our Energy Union proposal ... We would be all better advised to discuss these issues with the package on the table”, chief commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said on Friday (20 February).

An Energy Union was originally proposed a year ago by then prime minister of Poland Donald Tusk - now EU council president - who argued that Europe should be less dependent on Russian gas.

The dependency question has become even more acute as relations between Moscow and Brussels are at an all-time low over Russia's actions in Ukraine.

The European Commission, for its part, sees the term Energy Union as addressing wider energy issues, including more efficient use of energy, and making the economy less dependent on fossil fuels.

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