The Romanian Government has adopted a decision (no. 10/2017, published in the Official Gazette on 13 January 2017) regarding safeguard measures for the electricity market. The one-page document has stirred heated public debate, as it was adopted without previously having been made available for public consultation. Doubts have also been expressed as to the existence of a real crisis situation and the decision has already been criticised by some voices for being aimed at limiting exports.

As a background note, on 10 January 2017, Transelectrica SA, the Romanian transmission system operator (“TSO”), released a press statement announcing the highest levels of electricity consumption since 2001. In addition, cold weather and the low levels of internal rivers and of the Danube raised concerns of a large-scale electricity deficit. The following day, the TSO notified the Ministries of Energy and Economy and the national energy regulator (“ANRE”) about the situation and requested the adoption of safeguard measures.

The Government decision, introducing the measures requested by the TSO, states that, during the period between 16 January and 15 February 2017, in case of a crisis in the energy market and where the physical safety or security of persons, apparatus or installations or system integrity is threatened, the TSO can take safeguard measures, in the following order:

  • switch certain electricity generation capacities from natural gas to alternative fuels (e.g. heating oil) in case of a natural gas deficit;
  • reduce/cancel the Available Transfer Capability (“ATC”) for exports;
  • reduce/cancel electricity exchanges notified for export; and
  • gradually reduce the consumption of industrial consumers up to the minimum power necessary for safe operation.

The public debate and criticism have been focused so far on the possibility to limit exports and it remains to be seen how the measures described above will be applied. Strictly from a legal perspective, the Government’s decision appears however to establish a purely pre-emptive mechanism, in line with the safeguard measures provided by Article 42 of the Electricity Directive (2009/72/EC).