EU wants German, French power plan by end of month

LJUBLJANA, Jan 7 (Reuters) - France and Germany should come up with their alternative for injecting more competition into Europe’s power markets by the end of this month, the European Union’s new presidency said on Monday.

Paris and Berlin object to a proposal made last September by the European Commission that would require utilities -- such as Electricite de France EDF.PA and Germany's E.ON EONG.DE -- to split their generating and distribution activities.

The Commission proposed two alternatives.

Its preference is to require one owner for generation and a separate one for distribution activities. But, taking into account the views of Germany and France, it also proposed separate management of generation and distribution facilities while leaving ownership intact.

Andrej Vizjak, the economy minister of rotating EU president Slovenia, told reporters his country was in favour of the Commission’s plans but it was also working with France, Germany and other smaller countries which are opposed to them.

“We don’t want that someone can, through this seeking another proposal, just delay the whole story,” Vizjak told a group of Brussels-based reporters.

“We want to be very effective and at the end of January 2008 we want to have this concrete proposal on the table and find out if it is acceptable, if it is really effective unbundling.”

Vizjak said any new proposal would have to get support from those EU countries which are in favour of the Commission’s plan.

That proposal would require generators and suppliers of power and gas to sell their transmission infrastructure or hand over control to an independent operator.

Germany, France and others say the changes would weaken European companies. But the Commission says they are needed to help EU consumers already hit by soaring energy prices.

Reporting by William Schomberg