The president of the body representing Europe’s utility companies set the tone for frank discussions at its annual convention yesterday by describing the sector as ‘uninvestable’.

Fulvio Conti, who is also CEO of Italian power company Enel, told delegates gathered in Malta that access to capital was being blocked by two things: uncertainty and a lack of coherence.

Conti was speaking in the presence of European commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegard and the director general of the European Commission’s Energy Directorate, Phillip Lowe.

The Commission came under further fire, this time from the vice president of Eurelectric and CEO of E.ON, Johannes Teyssen, who bemoaned that weight of regulations that the electricity industry had to meet and the fact that four EC Commissioners had degrees of oversight of the sector.

He said that, while Eurelectric shared the goals of EC, it was far from sure it was on the right path.

Lowe said that he shared the concern about investment in the sector but pointed out that the financial crisis was making investment in parts of Europe very hard across the board.

He said that the Commission was looking to reduce regulations but was trying to create a single market place. Hedegard argued that centralising energy policy in Europe was the most cost effective way for the sector to operate and that European wide targets were needed.

Conti said that more investment was needed than ever before in order to complete the energy transition. He said that up to EUR1trn would be needed up to 2020 for the expansion of renewables capacity, for plants to back up that renewable generation and for innovative technologies such as Smart Grids, carbon captue and storage and electricity storage.

He called on the Commission to take immediate action to boost the European Emissions Trading System (ETS), which is currently failing to deliver investment signals to the market.

Conti said that the ETS was the key driver towards decarbonisation of the sector in Europe. “In short, act now to make our industry ‘investable’ again”, he concluded.

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