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Lower energy bills ahead for EU consumers

The bloc's newly open energy market may yield, a total savings of $80 billion a year for companies and households. 

The EU energy market was thrown to competition over the weekend allowing EU citizens across the 27-member bloc to choose their gas and electricity supplier in a move which should bring prices down for individuals and businesses. Companies and households throughout Europe could save $59 billion a year on energy bills after the move, the Guardian reported. The liberalization of the EU energy market has been pushed by the European Commission in a bid to improve competition in energy markets which should in turn help bring prices down, encourage investment in infrastructure, secure supplies and stimulate the production of renewable fuels. “I encourage European consumers to take advantage of their freedom to choose their energy suppliers,” said EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs in a statement. “A functioning EU energy market can only be obtained if consumers participate in the market actively.”

EU rules established in 2004 rules gave businesses a choice of energy supplier in the bloc, but energy companies had until now to give the same options to households and other consumers. The move has been both welcomed and resisted by the EU member states. Some resistance has stemmed from the fact that some big and usually state-run companies still dominate the gas and power business, keeping prices high and preventing newcomers entering the market. For France, for example, the new EU rules represents a major change as it puts an end to Electricite de France (EDF) and Gaz de France's (GDF) 60-year monopoly over household energy supply. Piebalgs said that some “obstacles to a truly competitive internal market remain,” explaining that the commission will therefore continue to survey how member states implement the existing rules. The EU executive will propose additional legislative measures in the near future.

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK all have liberalized their electricity and gas markets already. The electricity markets are open in Finland and Sweden and the gas market is open in Italy, according to the EU executive. Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia had to open their markets on Sunday while some countries, including Estonia, Greece and Portugal, have extensions to open their markets later. (businessweek.com)