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Industry News

Netherlands to 'De-privatize' National Grid

LCG, Oct. 19, 2000--The government of The Netherlands agreed this morning to purchase from its four owners the entire national electric transmission system that serves the land of tulips and Edam cheese. The cost to the government will be an agreed-upon $976 million.

Under a proposal by Dutch economic minister Annemarie Jorritsma, the government had planned to purchase only 51 percent of the grid but the transmission owners, EPZ, EPON, EZH and UNA, pushed for a complete sell-off.

A ministry official told the Financial Times, "The four companies that currently own the network were keen to sell the whole stake and we realized there was increasing parliamentary support for this."

As the European Union has opened the electric market on the Continent to cross-border competition, Holland has been held back by a lack of import capacity on its transmission grid. Because of long-term, fixed-price contracts, there has been little incentive for the four companies to expand their wires networks.

"On the one hand the market is liberalized but on the other hand we still have all the problems of the past. The new arrangement will allow us to make a fresh start," the official said.

As part of the agreement, the four companies will free up import capacity on the grid by terminating a contract with Electricit de France, the French national electric monopoly that likes to export power but is loath to see the juice flow the other way. Costs of cancelling the contract will be borne by the four companies.

The four selling companies plan to hold a joint press conference tomorrow.

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