EU Launches Investigation Into Spanish Energy Prices

Artificially low tariffs caused a $4.9 billion deficit and may have illegally increased utility profits.

The European Commission said Thursday it has opened an investigation into artificially low electricity prices in Spain.

According to the Commission, artificially low tariffs were set in 2005 for energy-intensive, medium- to large-sized industries, which may have also provided “abnormal” profits for the Spanish utilities.

A $4.9 billion deficit resulted from those tariffs and Spanish customers will see an additional charge on their bills for the next 14 years to pay off that deficit.

“Some sectors of European industry are going through difficult times because of high energy prices. But we must avoid distortions of competition that prevent consumers from fully enjoying the benefits of a liberalized energy market that unfairly advantage certain companies,” said Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The Commission is concerned that by providing the low regulated tariffs, the existing Spanish utilities may have prevented new suppliers from entering the market. Also, the Commission notes that it is looking into possible competition issues in the markets of the energy-intensive industries that received the tariffs.

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