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EU agrees to give more power to energy market regulator

EU negotiators agreed to give the bloc's energy regulator more power to make decisions on electricity and gas market issues with cross-border effects.

The European Parliament and the Council of the EU, made up of member-state ministers, reached an informal accord on a stronger market oversight role for the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, or ACER, on Dec. 11, according to the European Commission.

The agency will now have oversight of planned regional coordination centers for member states' transmission grid operators. Its regulatory procedures will also be streamlined by introducing direct approval by ACER, instead of separate approvals by all national regulators as now required. National regulators will retain their influence through majority voting within ACER, the commission said.

ACER is currently confined to coordinating the work of national regulators, advising European institutions on energy issues and monitoring the EU's internal electricity and gas markets. Its additional competencies will ensure the agency can step in "where fragmented national decisions of cross-border relevance would lead to problems for the internal energy market," the commission said in a statement.

The ACER reform is part of the EU's wide-ranging clean energy package proposed in 2016, which is still at various stages of negotiations. While new regulations and directives around renewable energy targets, energy efficiency and governance have already been agreed upon, the parliament and council are still locked in talks over the central electricity and gas market reform because of disputes around the future of capacity mechanisms for coal power plants, among others.

Negotiators are scheduled to meet Dec. 18 to reach a final agreement on the remaining two files of the package.

The text of the new EU regulation on ACER will have to be formally approved by the parliament and council before it enters into force.