The electricity generated at a power plant is frequently bought and sold a number of times in the wholesale market before reaching the final consumer. These sales generally take place in large quantities of electricity and involve energy retailers, investment banks, and large energy users. Natural gas is traded in a similar manner. Currently, several hundred companies are involved in wholesale electricity and gas trading in Europe and up to 10 000 transactions take place every day.
EU rules on wholesale energy trading
Wholesale prices are highly sensitive to available production and transmission capabilities because energy must be produced when needed and cannot be stored on an industrial scale. Prices may be influenced by spreading false information on the availability of these capabilities or by reducing production. Since plenty of energy is also traded across borders, it has traditionally been difficult to detect this kind of price manipulation as national regulators have not had access to cross-border data.
In response, the EU has passed regulations to detect market abuse and level penalties. These regulations:
- prohibit the use of inside information when buying or selling on wholesale energy markets
- prohibit manipulative transactions and the spreading of incorrect information that give false or misleading signals about supply, demand, or prices
- oblige energy traders to report their transaction data to the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER). These data include the price, volumes, date and time of the transaction, the name of the seller, the name of the buyer, and any other beneficiaries
- make ACER responsible for the independent monitoring of all wholesale energy trades. If market abuse is suspected, ACER will request that national regulators investigate. It will also coordinate cross-border investigations.