EU Regulation and Competition Policy among the Energy Utilities
The energy utilities – gas and electricity companies – were traditionally regulated monopolies, but once the EU decided to liberalise them, competition policy became applicable. The EU has used a series of Directives to set out the framework for a market-led energy sector, with third party access to the transmission and distribution networks, and a choice of retailer for all customers, although these depend upon the agreement of Member States. The Commission has been able to take action directly when ruling on mergers in the sector, and in several cases has obtained concessions that should increase the level of competition as a condition for allowing a merger. This is a reactive approach, however, and problems remain in the sector, as shown by the 2005-7 sector enquiry. The proposed third energy package may remove some of the barriers to effective liberalisation.
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