On 22/23 April 2010 the Institute for Energy and Regulatory Law Berlin (Institut für Energie- und Regulierungsrecht Berlin, ENREG, www.enreg.eu) and the European Energy Forum (Europäisches Energie Forum, EUREF) organized an International Conference on energy law at the Gasometer Berlin, in the centre of an old decommissioned gasholder. Coordinator of the Conference was the Professor of Law at the Freie Universität Berlin and managing director of ENREG Prof. Prof. Dr. iur. Dr. rer. pol. Dr. h.c. Franz Jürgen Säcker while the participants came from the private and public sector as well as recognized universities in Germany, Russia and other countries.
The first day of the conference began with the latest developments in the European Energy Law after the adoption of the 3rd energy package by the European Union. The participants focused on the role of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) that is under construction according to the Regulation (EC) No 713/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing an Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators.
The Agency shall be a Community Body with legal personality, it will have mainly monitoring and advisory tasks and will make recommendations to assist national regulatory authorities and market players in sharing good practices. As regards to situations concerning more than one Member State, the Agency is granted the power to adopt individual decisions in technical issues, the regulatory regime for electricity and natural gas infrastructure that connects, or might connect, at least two Member States and, as a last resort, exemptions from the internal market rules for new electricity interconnectors and new gas infrastructure located in more than one Member State. For cross-border infrastructure, the Agency shall decide upon those regulatory issues that fall within the competence of national regulatory authorities, which may include the terms and conditions for access and operational security, only where the competent national regulatory authorities can not reach an agreement within a period of six months from when the case was referred to the last of those regulatory authorities, or upon a joint request from the competent national regulatory authorities (Article 8 of the Regulation). An important issue raised in the conference was the securing of the Agency’s independence from electricity and gas producers and system operators. Finally, the participants expressed their skepsis on the financial consequences of the establishment of the Agency for the national regulatory authorities and the scope of its existence since it will lack extensive decision-making competences.
Second important discussion matter was the relationship between the European Union Member States, especially Germany, and Russia in the sector of natural gas due to the great dependence of Europe on Russian gas. Representatives of the latter company, but also of other institutions, analyzed the energy legal framework of Russia and of other East European countries (e.g. Ukraine) and discussion took place regarding the third party access, the investments on the networks in order to cover future demands as well as the determination of network tariffs and end prices for the supply of natural gas.
In the framework of cooperation with Russian legal experts and during the dinner that took place at the end of the first day of the Conference, a handbook on German and Russian Energy Law was presented (Handbuch zum deutsch-russischen Energierecht) which is going to be translated in Russian in the near future. At the same time, the very useful -for academics and practitioners- Commentary on Energy Law (Berliner Kommentar zum Energierecht) was presented which covers aspects on German and European energy law.
The second day of the conference was dedicated to issues of energy networks. Network matters are considered to be significant due to the ongoing increase of electricity production from renewable energy sources and of the consumption demands. As a consequence the transport of more energy through the networks will be inevitable. New investments are needed while the existing networks have to be utilized as efficiently as possible. Representatives from a big network operator and from the Moscow Energy Institute in Berlin analyzed the possibility of cooperation between transport system operators at the European level, but also with the transport system of Russia, as well as the financial, technical and environmental difficulties of such cooperation.
In the last part of the conference special reference was made to the supply of electricity. The last development in this sector is known under the title “Smart Grids” and is subject to research and promotion in many countries, Germany and Greece among others. Smart Grids are a new network type with many advantages as they are more efficient and have a smaller impact on the environment. They also lead to a decrease of traditional energy production and support a more decentralized production and consumption. This is the case given that due to the introduction of more energy produced by renewable energy sources, a double energy transport takes place (from and towards the network) and smaller production sites will come into service at a local level (small wind energy plants, photovoltaic, electro vehicles etc.). For the Smart Grids to function the contribution of other technologies is necessary (IT and Communication technology) so that a kind of “internet of energy” will be constructed while the willingness of the consumers is going to be eminent as well, as they have to invest in new energy technologies. Main advantages of Smart Grids are a more effective utilization of the existing supply infrastructure, an expanded use of renewable energy resources and a decrease of CO2 emissions, but also a better strategy of capital investment on new infrastructure and replacement of old plants. Within the scope of the above mentioned challenges in the energy sector, Germany has issued a funding program with six model regions that will carry out research and development activities with the support of two ministries (E-Energy – ICT-based energy system of the future). These projects, including a Smart Grid project, are declared to be an issue of immense importance for the country’s future supply. In the same context the Greek Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES) is also involved in Smart Grid projects in Greece.
As a conclusion, it has been recognized by all participants that the conference was very successful as it fulfilled its aim to bring together players from the public and the private sector and to open a dialogue on real central issues of the energy sector. More chances to promote this dialogue will be given in the future.
Dr. Markela Stamati, LL.M., Associate
Energy & Competition Law Team
I.K. Rokas & Partners (Athens)