RPT-UPDATE 1-EPEX SPOT power exchange targeted in EU antitrust investigation

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BRUSSELS, March 30 (Reuters) - The Paris-based power exchange EPEX SPOT on Tuesday found itself the target of an EU antitrust investigation as enforcers voiced concerns that it may be blocking rivals in the intraday power markets in France, Germany and four other EU countries.

The European Commission said EPEX SPOT may be abusing its market power in breach of EU competition rules and that such practices, if proven, could push up consumer prices and hinder the cost-effective integration of renewable energy into the electricity mix.

It said the investigation would focus on business practices aimed at foreclosing EPEX SPOT’s competitors by curtailing the ability of their customers to access the entire liquidity of the intraday market.

“Preserving healthy competition between power exchanges and between traders contributes to accurate price and investment signals for new sources of energy, which are central for the cost-effective integration of renewable technologies in the electricity mix,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

The Commission said other affected countries were Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

EPEX SPOT said it was fully committed to cooperating with the authorities in good faith and to continuing a constructive dialogue with the Commission.

Companies can be fined as much as 10% of their annual turnover if found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules.

EPEX SPOT covers much of western European cross-border power in its day-ahead and intraday markets, where sellers and buyers can trade power shortly before it is fed into networks, acting as an important intermediary.

Since 2018, its Single Intraday Coupling mechanism has been a key place for exchanging electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and sunshine as the energy sector reduces its reliance on oil, gas and coal. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Vera Eckert in Frankfurt; Editing by Kevin Liffey)