Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ceisteanna (6)

Michael Moynihan


6. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he will respond to the European Commission’s decision to refer Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to fully transpose EU internal energy market rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11700/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Communications)

I ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources for his response to the European Commission’s decision to refer Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to transpose fully EU internal energy market rules, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

There has been detailed engagement by my Department with the European Commission over recent years on the transposition and implementation of the EU third energy package. The Commission notice of referral refers to Ireland having adopted a considerable amount of legislation required by the directive but notes that some provisions remain to be transposed.

My Department is at an advanced stage in the drafting of a limited number of additional legislative provisions. These will provide for the full transposition of most of the outstanding provisions of the electricity directive, some of which are included in the matters which the Commission has decided to refer to the European Court of Justice, with the exception of a provision on unbundling, which is also included in the matters referred by the Commission. I am committed to having these remaining technical provisions fully transposed as early as possible this year, well in advance of any hearing in the European Court of Justice.

In relation to transposition of the rules on ownership unbundling, Ireland opted for, and subsequently received, certification from the European Commission for the operation of the electricity transmission system under Article 9(9) of the directive and so did not apply full ownership unbundling as provided for in Article 9(9). Certification under the Article 9(9) option is obtained provided the European Commission is satisfied with regard to multiple matters concerning the ownership and operation of the transmission system.

I am awaiting receipt of the specific detail of the European Commission's case in the notice of application to the European Court and I will consider my response once legal examination of these issues is completed. The application of the Commission to the court has not yet been received. In view of the complexity of the directive, the extensive number of provisions to be transposed and the detailed correspondence engaged in to date, it appears prudent and appropriate to me to await such a legal examination of the precise statement of the outstanding issues, and of the case itself, before deciding on the next steps.

Will the Minister clarify that the aim of the directive is to provide a level playing field for all the market players to ensure competition in the market and that the cost of energy to householders and businesses can be driven down? Also, what are the limited number of additional legislative provisions to which the Minister referred in his reply? I understand these were to be enacted on 3 March 2011.

I can give the Deputy an example. In the context of cross-border issues, the national energy regulator, which in Ireland's case is the Commission for Energy Regulation, is required to maintain the same level of confidentiality regarding any information received from another regulatory authority as that which applies to the original regulatory authority. The regulator is to be required to comply with directive provisions regarding cross-border arrangements such as informing the European Commission about relevant decisions taken by another regulator allowing it to request the EU energy regulatory body, known as ACER, for an opinion on cross-border trade. Energy supply undertakings, for example, Electric Ireland, SSE Airtricity and BG Energy, is to be required to keep records for five years and to make them available to the European Commission, the regulator or the Competition Authority as may be requested. The transmission system operator, which in Ireland's case is Eirgrid, is to be required to make public information necessary for the effective competition and the efficient functioning of the market. There is a number of others in similar mode. They are not exactly bedtime reading but I can assure Deputy Moynihan they are in hand and that additional legislative proposals will be ready before the date of the court case.

As I understand it the ultimate aim of the directive is to ensure that there is more competition in the market. In view of that I ask the Minister to make sure that any outstanding issues are complied with as soon as possible because we hear on a daily basis, and I note the Bord Gáis increase announced this week, that there must be more competition in the market. It is difficult to justify some of the increases that have been granted.

We have a healthy marketplace now. In addition to the companies I named, we now have Centrica, a major company in the neighbouring island, coming in after the purchase of Bord Gáis Energy. Most commentators would agree that we have significant competition in the marketplace but I agree with Deputy Moynihan that one has to be vigilant about this. There were particular reasons the previous Government held the view it did on the question of breaking up the ESB, and there were particular reasons for the decisions I made at the time, and I do not believe there will be disagreement between Deputy Moynihan and myself about them.