Plan to boost competition in electricity market faces delay

All-Ireland energy market to meet EU standard will not be operational until May 2018

A European Union standard, outlined in 2009, is aimed at driving cross-border energy trading across the bloc

A European Union standard, outlined in 2009, is aimed at driving cross-border energy trading across the bloc

 

The State is set to miss an already delayed European Union target of reforming its wholesale energy market with the North next year, in a move aimed at increasing competition and potentially lowering prices.

Ireland has had a single electricity market since 2007. However, its design is not consistent with a European Union standard, outlined in 2009, that is aimed at driving cross-border energy trading across the bloc.

While the EU gave most member states until the end of 2014 to meet the new target, the Republic and the North were given a derogation and later implementation date of 2017 to comply.

The Commission for Energy Regulation in Dublin and Utility Regulator in Belfast proposed last week that the new market – the so-called integrated single energy market (I-Sem) – be delayed by seven months until May 2018.

A report commissioned by both regulators last month found that there were a number of “unacceptably high” risks with going live with I-Sem in October 2017, particularly around how prepared energy companies were for the market changes.

Back-up supply

Under the incoming system, known as a capacity remuneration mechanism, energy firms would have to actively bid through auctions to provide back-up supply, increasing competition between market players.

“I-Sem mainly allows for more efficient linkage between the island of Ireland energy market and that of our European neighbours,” said Peter McLay, a partner with law firm Mason Hayes & Curran.

“At the moment, because prices aren’t set in Ireland and Great Britain in the same way, it is difficult to export energy back and forth. I-Sem is basically about the island of Ireland catching up with the rest of Europe.”

Mr McLay said the UK’s decision in June to exit the European Union need not be an issue for the integrated market.

“The market can work independently of European membership, even though it is put in place as a requirement of European energy law,” he said.