Giant energy companies in the EU will not have to be broken up in moves to open the sector to more competition.
The European Commission had wanted to totally separate energy producers from their distribution networks, to help new entrants to the market and force down prices.
But Germany and France spearheaded opposition to any forced dismantling of their national energy champions. And, at a meeting of EU energy ministers in Luxembourg, a compromise deal has been reached.
“I believe that the compromise made is an excellent one,” EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told reporters. He said it would strengthen the European internal market.
Many EU states have already moved to liberalise energy markets.
Under the new agreement, utilities will be allowed to maintain ownership of electricity and gas supply and distribution businesses, under heavy regulation. It will have to be approved by the European Parliament before it becomes law.