National energy regulators have welcomed the call by José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, for the European Union to consider fresh laws to prise open its power markets.

Ergeg, which represents gas and electricity watchdogs, said new legislation was needed to give regulators greater power to ensure that cross-border energy markets functioned well.

Such laws could help to ensure that companies invested in infrastructure that would be used in an integrated EU grid.

The Union faces structural problems in developing cross-border power markets, in part because each of the 25 countries has different codes for using its energy grids and infrastructure. But member states have been reluctant to set up a European regulator that would overcome this with powers to police access to the grid.

Mr Barroso said on Monday that fresh regulation was the only way to guarantee increased access to Europe’s energy market and give muscle to regulators to break the grip of monopolistic suppliers. He believes some national regulators are too close to national government and dominant power companies.

Fulvio Conti, chief executive of Enel, the Italian utility which has been frustrated by its inability to expand in France, said: “It’s about time that other countries should offer these opportunities to companies like Enel.”

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