E-Control and the Austrian energy market
The first European countries moved to liberalise their electricity and gas markets in the early 1990s. Austria followed suit in 2001 (electricity) and 2002 (gas). For competition to emerge market participants need clear rules of the game. As the regulator, E-Control is responsible for drawing up and enforcing these rules.
The regulator must strengthen competition and ensure that this does not compromise security of supply and sustainability. To act even-handedly in the interests of all market participants, regulators must be politically and financially independent.
Against this background, E-Control was founded as a limited liability company in 2001. We took up operations on 1 March 2001. On 3 March 2011, E-Control was transformed into a public authority. The new E-Control-Gesetz (E-Control Act), which in sections 2 and 43 was the basis for this transformation, also lists our powers and duties.
- E-Control’s tasks are laid down in several Austrian acts. These are:
- The Elektrizitätswirtschafts- und organisationsgesetz (Electricity Act) 2010
- The Gaswirtschaftsgesetz (Natural Gas Act) 2011
- The E-Control-Gesetz (E-Control Act)
- The Ökostromgesetz (Green Electricity Act)
- The Verrechnungsstellengesetz (Settlement Agencies Act)
- It is our own responsibility to create the organisational framework necessary to be able to meet our duties.
- We issue expert opinions and position papers on the market conditions and competitive situation in the electricity and natural gas sectors. The Kartellgesetz (Cartel Act) gives us certain rights to motion and opinion for these sectors also.
- E-Control has been given responsibilities relating to electricity generated from renewable energy sources and cogeneration plants.
- Within the scope of subject matters conferred upon E-Control, our employees can be called in as independent experts in court or administrative procedures.
- We contribute to the cooperation for the further development of the European Internal Energy Market.
E-Control’s regulatory functions for the electricity and gas market include
- Drawing up electricity and gas market codes together with the market participants and publishing them in an appropriate way,
- Drawing up, in cooperation with the network operators, proposals for technical and organisational rules for the operators and users of networks and make these rules available to them,
- Compiling and publishing electricity and natural gas price comparisons for consumers,
- Taking the appropriate measures in the area of cross-border supplies necessary to ensure compliance with European Union requirements, and
- Publishing general information about our activities in an appropriate way.
Monitoring and supervision
- Our monitoring and supervision function for the electricity ad natural gas markets includes
- Monitoring compliance by all market participants and system operators with competition rules, in particular with regard to the equal treatment of all market participants; the jurisdiction of the Cartel Court is unaffected thereby,
- Monitoring unbundling,
- Monitoring of balance responsible parties, clearing and settlement agents and control area operators,
- Supervising the import of electricity and natural gas from EU member states and third countries.
- Within the scope of our oversight and monitoring tasks, E-Control can issue procedural directives instructing market participants that have violated the legal provisions to restore compliance with the general legal order. For this, we set an appropriate deadline. If the party concerned fails to comply with this instruction within the period set, we issue an official decision to restore compliance with the law.
- E-Control can issue all orders and ordinances necessary to establish and ensure compliance with the law in the areas referred to above in order to safeguard the legal interests of the market participants.
- Any legal consequences resulting from the violation of the respective provisions remain unaffected thereby and are dealt with according to the rules governing the violated provision.
Without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the competent courts of law, any party (including system users, suppliers, system operators, other electricity and natural gas undertakings or interest groups) can address us with disputes or complaints. This in particular refers to the settlement of disputes between system operators and market participants, of disputes regarding the settlement of balancing energy or the billing of electricity or natural gas supply and of disputes regarding the settlement of system charges. We must try to achieve a mutually agreed solution within six weeks. Whenever we deal with dispute settlement cases involving consumers in the sense of the Konsumentenschutzgesetz (Consumer Protection Act), E-Control is obliged to involve the Federal Chamber of Labour. Electricity and natural gas undertakings must contribute to such proceedings and to provide any information necessary to ascertain the facts.
E-Control may call in independent experts to contribute to the dispute settlement procedure. These experts may be E-Control employees.
When E-Control is called upon for dispute settlement, the term of payment of the amount in question is suspended until the matter is resolved. However, an amount corresponding to the average of the last three invoiced amounts may become due immediately. Any excess amounts collected are to be reimbursed, including legal interest from the collection date. On an annual basis, we must compile a report of the dispute settlement applications received and make this report available to the Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth and the Ministry of Justice.
- Unless an issue falls within provincial competence, E-Control is responsible for monitoring compliance with the rules in force concerning the supply with green electricity and electricity from small hydropower plants. Monitoring compliance with the rules for green electricity plants has to be carried out according to the procedure set out in section 33 Electricity Act 2010.
- Any fault in purchasing the prescribed amounts of electricity from green electricity plants or small hydropower plants has to be notified to the provincial government on whose territory the market participant (Austrian electricity trader or consumer) or network operator has its seat.
- Any further rules regarding the burden of proof are to be determined by E-Control by means of an ordinance. This ordinance has to determine also the reporting requirements of network operators, clearing and settlement agents and balance responsible parties.
- E-Control is entrusted with the task of determining the amount of the equalisation payments resulting from grouping systems of different owners together.
- We are trusted to set up an account for the purpose of handling these payments.
- More detailed rules about payment methods, the manner in which the amount of the equalisation payments is determined and their operative settlement must be laid down in an E-Control ordinance.
We have a series of responsibilities related to stranded costs. They include collecting and managing the contributions for this purpose and allocating them to the beneficiary undertakings. We also have other tasks in this context, in reference to executing section 69 Electricity Act in its previous version in conjunction with section 109(2) Electricity Act 2010. Previously, these matters had been entrusted to the (former) Federal Minister of Economics and Labour.
We collect data for the electricity and natural gas statistics and have a number of other statistical tasks.