The High Court on Friday said it is to ask the European Court for its advice on whether or not energy firms can be forced to split off their electricity grid operations, as they are required to do under Dutch law.
In 2007, the Dutch government passed legislation which stopped energy companies both producing power and transporting it. The government argued that while generating power is a commercial activity, the distribution market should remain in public ownership.
Energy firms had until January 2011 to comply with the new rules. Nuon and Essent, both now in foreign hands, have done so.
However, the other main players Eneco and Delta, both of which are owned by local and provincial councils, have refused to comply. They argue the Dutch law contravenes European regulations, and won their case on appeal.
The High Court has now decided to ask the European Court for its view. According to the NRC, it may now be a further two or three years before a final decision is taken.