(Adds Nord Pool Spot, EPEX, European Commission comments)
By Foo Yun Chee
AMSTERDAM, March 5 (Reuters) - European Union antitrust regulators fined power exchanges across the region a total of 6.9 million euros ($9.48 million) on Wednesday for anti-competitive practices thwarting Europe’s strategy to create a single energy market.
The EU competition watchdog handed out a 2.33 million euro fine to Norwegian spot power exchange Nord Pool Spot (NPS) and a 3.65 million euro fine to Paris-based EPEX Spot for an agreement not to compete with each other for at least seven months in 2011 and 2012.
Nord Pool Spot, which covers power trading in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Estonia, and Paris-based German-French EPEX, which operates the power spot markets for Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland, received a 10 percent cut in their fines for admitting taking part in a cartel.
It also imposed a 1 million euro penalty on Romanian power exchange operator OPCOM for blocking foreign traders from the local wholesale electricity market.
It said the discrimination occured between 2008 and 2013 and reduced liquidity in the Romanian power market.
Electricity worth more than 40 billion euros was traded on Europe’s spot exchanges in 2012.
Europe is keen to develop an integrated energy market across the 28-country bloc which will be better able to balance security of supply and the challenges of climate change.
“When building the single market, it is essential to make sure that anti-competitive behaviour of market players does not raise new barriers to trade,” European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
NPS CEO Mikael Lundin said the company regretted its anti-competitive behaviour.
“We discussed European power market integration too closely with another European power exchange,” he said.
NPS will take clearing for the short-term physical market from Nasdaq OMX in Britain by Oct. 1, making it the leading physical power market exchange in northern Europe. ID:nL6N0M11TL]
EPEX said it was committed to creating a single European power market.
$1 = 0.7277 euros Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis in Vilnius and Michel Rose in Paris; editing by Thomas Escritt and William Hardy