New parliament against grid privatisation

The partial privatisation of power and gas grids no longer has a majority in the new Dutch parliament, according to today’s Financieele Dagblad. The paper says that MPs from the Christian Democrats, Socialist Party, GreenLeft and ChritenUnie – together good for 79 of the 150 seats – do not want the new economic affairs minister to approve minority privatisation of energy grids.

This puts Eindhoven’s publically owned energy supplier/distributor NRE in a difficult situation. NRE was split into two separate firms – one for its commercial supply activities, the other for distribution – in 2005 in anticipation of new legislation (Splitsingswet).
The supply company was then sold to Germany’s Eon for 80 million euros and 49 percent of the grid was taken over by Australian investor Macquairie, also for 80 million euros. The latter transaction was pending ministerial approval, but in practice Macquarie is already operating as the company’s shareholder, the paper says.
But now the new Dutch parliament, inaugurated yesterday, wants both the economic and judicial ownership of grids to remain in local government ownership, says the FD.
This is a reversal of an amendment to the Splitsingswet (passed by the Senate in October) which allows 49 percent of the economic ownership of grids to be in private hands.
It will probably be months before a new coalition cabinet is formed but all three likely partners – Christian Democrats, Socialists and ChristenUnie – are against any form of privatisation of the Dutch energy infrastructure.
However NRE director Paul Dijkstra told the FD that he expects a new economic affairs minister to approve his company’s deal with Macquarie.

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