EU antitrust investigation targets Germany’s high-voltage electricity network

EU targets German high-voltage electricity network
European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager © Friends of Europe

The European Commission has launched a formal investigation into whether German high-voltage electricity network operator TenneT has breached EU anti-trust rules.

Tennet is the largest of four transmission system operators managing the high-voltage electricity network in Germany, and is responsible for transporting electricity from generation plants to regional or local distribution operators. From there, the electricity is delivered to households and small industrial consumers.

Today, the European Commission has sent a preliminary assessment to TenneT which sets out in detail its concerns. The EU has also welcomed the high-voltage electricity network operator’s commitment to holding constructive discussions, with the aim of designing new commitments to address any future concerns.

What is the EU concerned about?

The EU investigation centres on whether, as the commission suspects, TenneT has been reducing the amount of transmission capacity on the electricity interconnector at Germany’s border with Denmark. If this proves true, it could indicate a breach of EU anti-trust laws.

Specifically, such an action by TenneT could constitute an abuse of the company’s dominant market position in order to suppress and discriminate against non-German electricity producers. Further, this would create challenges in the ongoing process to establish a European energy union.

What did the commission say?

European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is responsible for competition policy in the bloc, said that the commission’s investigation was motivated by a need to ensure the free flow of energy across EU borders in order to facilitate the development of an energy union.

She said: “Energy should flow freely in Europe… Our investigation into TenneT is part of our efforts to ensure that electricity grid operators do not unjustifiably restrict the free flow of electricity between member states, to the detriment of European energy consumers.”

Vestager concluded: “Ensuring that electricity interconnectors remain fully open to cross-border trade is essential to achieve our overall objective of an efficient, sustainable and competitive energy market”.

The commission also emphasised that the opening of a formal investigation into the matter should not prejudge the outcome.

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