Romania’s National Regulatory Authority for Energy (ANRE) is to investigate at least two alleged breaches of competition law on the Romanian market for electricity trade.
ANRE head Niculae Havrilet said the watchdog would also conduct a wider probe of trading carried out between December 15 and the present. The investigation comes as Romanian consumers face surging electricity prices amid icy weather which has depleted water levels on the River Danube, affecting generation.
Bucharest was forced to bring in emergency services in January when around 14,000 Romanian households were left without electricity or heat in freezing conditions, Bloomberg reported on January 11. Romanian Deputy Energy Minister Corina Popescu reported at the time that consumption had surged to a 15-year high. Exacerbating the situation, Romania had disconnected a 700-MW nuclear reactor at its Cernavoda station. According to data compiled by NewsBase, day-ahead market (DAM) prices at Romania’s power exchange (OPCOM) averaged 77.89 euros (US$83.34) in the January 16-22 period, up 78% year on year and 12% week on week.
The president of the Association of Electricity Suppliers in Romania (AFEER), Ion Lungu, was quoted by Curierul National on February 2 as welcoming the ANRE probe, while cautioning that prejudgement could stigmatise the entire sector.
“Do not blame an entire category of market participants without first having all the information,” he said. “We ask the ANRE to expedite the analysis, identify causes and to inform the public as required by law.”
While conceding that Romania’s energy prices in January had soared to “completely unusual” levels, he also pointed out that peak consumption had reached 1,500-2,000 MW in some Romanian regions.
Under Romanian competition law, the ANRE is permitted to work with Romania’s transmission system operator (TSO) to monitor electricity trading for market abuse. ANRE is also mandated to liaise with the Romanian competition council and ask for its analysis where there is suspicion of foul play. Moreover, under legislation rolled out in 2012, Bucharest prohibited traders from conducting trades under power purchase agreements (PPAs) negotiated outside the OPCOM platform. Purchase offers must be made at the exchange to allow greater oversight and prevent potential market abuses.