The European Commission has opened a formal investigation to assess whether the power exchange EPEX Spot has been taking advantage of its dominant position to hinder the activities of competitors on the market for electricity intraday trading facilitation services in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg the Netherlands and possibly other member states, the EU’s antitrust chief said on March 30.
Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said power exchanges are central to the efficient functioning of electricity markets. “Electricity trading plays an important and growing role in the effective and safe management of electricity grids,” she said, adding that it helps ensure that electricity flows from where it is produced to where it is most needed, to the benefit of European consumers. “Preserving healthy competition between power exchanges and between traders contributes to accurate price and investment signals for new sources of energy, which are central for the cost-effective integration of renewable technologies in the electricity mix,” Vestager said.
EPEX Spot is the biggest power exchange in several EU Member States. Electricity trading is a market worth tens of billions of euros annually.
According to the Commission, intraday markets are the markets where sellers and buyers of electricity can trade power in the last hours before it is injected into the network. They play an essential role for the safety of the network, but also for the efficient use of green technologies such as solar and wind, whose output can be forecast most accurately just prior to production.
The Commission said it is concerned that EPEX Spot may have restricted competition in the intraday markets. More specifically, the investigation will focus on concerns that EPEX Spot may have adopted behaviours aimed at foreclosing its competitors by curtailing the ability of their customers to access the entire liquidity of the intraday market.
If proven, this behaviour may constitute an exclusionary practice, in breach of the EU’s antitrust rules, specifically on the abuse of a dominant market position as prohibited under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In particular, the behaviour may distort the prices of trading services, and could ultimately lead to higher electricity prices for consumers and a slowdown in the greening of the electricity system by preventing the cost-effective integration of renewable technologies into the electricity mix.