Piebalgs to propose new EU energy regulator

Sunday, November 2, 2008

MADRID, Nov 2 (Reuters) - European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs will propose a new EU-wide energy regulator with equal powers to national regulators and will push for greater independence for those state watchdogs, he said on Sunday.

"I am going to propose a new regulation both for national regulators, to increase their real independence and their capacity to intervene, and a new Agency of European Regulators, which has to have powers comparable with national regulators," Piebalgs told the Sunday edition of Spanish newspaper ABC.

The Latvian-born commissioner said the financial crisis had taught the industry that if there were only a handful of big companies and something went wrong, the state would have to rescue that producer. "The conclusion that we should draw is that competition rules have to be strengthened, as much at the level of national regulators as the competition authorities in Brussels.

"Regulators are fundamental, they have to be strong, independent and vigilant."

Piebalgs comments will resonate in Spain where the country's energy markets regulator, the CNE, was heavily criticised for lacking independence during the protracted takeover battle for power producer Endesa.

The Commission criticised Spain for beefing up the CNE's powers to block an E.ON bid for Endesa (the regulator subsequently placed 19 conditions on the offer, including selling some of Endesa's best assets).

In January Brussels then began legal action against Spain after it failed to lift the CNE's conditions on a subsequent bid for Endesa by Spain's Acciona and Italian utility Enel.

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