Following long and difficult negotiations, the European Parliament decided in its plenary session in Strasbourg this week to draw a line under the so-called “3rd Energy Package”. As is well known, in September 2007 the European Commission had presented comprehensive proposals in order to drive forward the liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets. The proposals of the Commission were now discussed within the scope of 5 reports in a second reading by the European Parliament, after the Member States had reached mutual agreement.
The most divisive point to the end remained the so-called “unbundling” of electricity companies, which produce energy, being owners of the transmission networks at the same time. The Commission, in its original draft had proposed a strict ownership separation of production and transmission, which in many cases would have amounted to a breaking up of energy companies. This radical approach, however, was rejected by the Member States (and also by Austria), which instead came out in favour of a weakened variant. According to this variant - in technical jargon also called third option - the companies will be allowed to keep both production and transport networks in future; a number of safety mechanisms, however, should guarantee that such corporations do not misuse their transmission networks to block competitors from accessing the market. During the negotiations, AK too came out in favour for this third option. After the EP had already accepted this third option for the gas market in the first reading, the second reading did not have to come a long way to accept it also for the electricity market.

Apart from that, the 3rd Energy Package, which has been accepted by the EP with a large majority, also provides for improvements for consumers, in particular with regard to changing providers as well as concerning the right to information and the right of appeal. In addition, it will be ensured that the Member States guarantee all citizens access to electricity at affordable prices (so-called universal service) and that they take particularly suited measures to combat the growing energy poverty (households that can no longer afford electricity and gas). Furthermore, the parliamentarians came out in favour of setting up an EU Agency, in which the national energy regulators will cooperate and which will make (non-binding) recommendations.

Further information:

Background information by the EP on the 3rd Energy Package

Provisional version of all texts adopted by the EP