Power firms told to split off energy grids

Dutch energy companies are to be forced to create separate firms for their grid operations, economic affairs minister Maria van der Hoeven told parliament late on Thursday.

The idea of splitting up energy firms into commercial and non-commercial units was first proposed in 2004 and has been fiercely opposed by the traditional power firms such as Essent and Nuon.
MPs approved the Segregation Law but in November the Senate (upper house of parliament) added a proviso – energy firms would only have to be split if there was a European directive to this effect or if the public function of the grids was threatened by the energy firms forming international alliances.
According to the Financieele Dagblad, Van der Hoeven has based her decision on this last point. Essent, Nuon and Delta (Holland’s first, second and fourth largest energy concerns) have an ‘unmistakeably’ international strategy, the paper quotes her as saying.
In an interview in the Volkskrant, Van der Hoeven acknowledged that Holland’s third largest energy company, Eneco, does not have international plans.: ‘They have behaved well. But I cannot interpret the law in a way that it only applies to one, two or three companies.’
The minister added that she wanted to prevent any negative impact that commercial activities may have on grids under the motto ‘prevention is better than cure’.
The aim of splitting up the energy companies is to create a genuinely independent distribution infrastructure so that energy firms without grids – market newcomers – can compete on equal terms.
The traditional publically-owned power firms say that removing their grids leaves them vulnerable to foreign takeovers.

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