SNP MEP Welcomes New EU Energy Market Package

24 April 2009
SNP MEP Alyn Smith, alternate member of the European Parliament's powerful Energy Committee, has today welcomed a series of votes in the European Parliament that should give European consumers greater rights when it comes to choosing their electricity and gas suppliers, as well as greater protection for those trapped in fuel poverty.

This week's series of votes bring to an end a lengthy and technical negotiation between MEPs and national governments to agree new rules for opening up Europe's electricity and gas markets to greater competition, with the aim of ensuring greater price transparency and encouraging lower energy prices for EU consumers.

Under the package, consumers gain the explicit right to switch their energy suppliers within three weeks without charge, the right to a single point of contact for information and redress. MEPs also backed plans to cut bills for people on pre-payment meters, to install "smart" meters in all EU homes by 2022 and an obligation for national governments to guarantee universal access to electricity for all households.

In order to free the market as a whole, some of Europe's larger energy companies will be obliged to separate their transmission and production activities. Two alternative options were agreed enabling energy companies to retain control of their gas and electricity networks by handing them over to an independent systems operator or transmission operator.

Smith said:

"The Parliament has done a good bit of work this week with such a technical piece of legislation. The real winners are Europe's consumers and I'm glad to see they have been put at the centre of this new package thanks to the Parliament's efforts. There is much that will benefit Scottish consumers with more rights to protect them against being ripped off by energy companies including the right to compensation for bad service such as inaccurate or delayed billing.

"Moves for increased measures to tackle the issue of fuel poverty are especially welcome at this time of economic uncertainty and job losses, with national governments now required to draw up national energy action plans for how they intend to eradicate fuel poverty and provide vulnerable energy consumers with greater protection.

"I also welcome further moves to improve energy efficiency with so-called smart meters to be installed in 80% of homes across the EU by 2020 and to all homes by 2022 as a way of enabling consumers to better monitor their energy use and to avoid peak hours when energy costs are more expensive.

"The Scottish Government has already been leading efforts to reduce fuel poverty among Scotland's householders with its new ÂŁ60 million energy assistance programme which includes benefit and tax credit and tariff checks to ensure people are paying the correct bill, as well as providing central heating and insulation."

The Parliament voted in favour of 5 reports by large majorities. These were:

  • Energy rules for the internal market in electricity (repeal. Directive 2003/54/EC)
  • Electricity and gas market: Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators
  • Energy: internal market in electricity, cross-border exchanges, access to network (amend. Regulation (EC) No 1228/2003)
  • Energy: rules for the internal market in natural gas (repeal. Directive 2003/55/EC)
  • Energy: internal market in natural gas, access to the transmission networks.

Member State governments are set to adopt the whole energy package later this summer.