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How is the energy market organised?

In a liberalised energy market, that is one open to competition, you are mainly in contact with two players: the supplier and the distribution system operator.

However, alongside these two main parties, other companies or bodies also contribute towards supplying energy and ensuring that the market runs smoothly:

  • the energy producers or importers
  • the high-pressure gas transmission network operator
  • the high-voltage electricity transmission network operator
  • the federal regulator, the CREG
  • the regional regulators (Brugel in Brussels)
  • the energy mediation service.

The energy supply chain

The aim of liberalising the energy market (which has been the case in Brussels since 2007) is to put an end to certain monopolies and to enable consumers to choose their supplier. The intention is for separate companies to take care of the production, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity and gas.

Producers and importers

It all begins with generating electricity and importing gas. Different companies compete with one another to sell energy to the suppliers who then sell it on to their customers. It may be, however, that one company both produces energy and sells it to consumers.

The transmission network operators

There are two of them: Elia for electricity and Fluxys for gas.

  • They organise, extend and maintain the networks of high-voltage electricity cables and high-pressure gas pipelines. These enable them to carry the energy from the power stations and natural gas terminals to major industrial customers or the regional distribution networks.
  • They provide the interconnection between their networks and those of neighbouring countries.

The distribution system operators

There is one such operator in Brussels (Sibelga) and several in the other Regions. They each have a monopoly over the network in their area.

  • They convert the high-voltage electricity transmitted by Elia into medium- and low-voltage electricity and carry it to your home. The high-pressure gas brought in by Fluxys is also reduced to pressures at which it can be used in your home.
  • To carry the energy to you, your distribution system operator manages, builds and maintains networks of cables and pipelines that are to be found everywhere. Their networks extend as far as the meters.
  • The distribution system operator also validates the meter readings and passes them on to the suppliers.
  • In addition, the distribution system operators fulfil public service missions. For Sibelga, these include lighting the municipal roads and providing energy for protected customers and street events.

The energy suppliers

  • They sell the energy they have bought from the producers/importers to their customers. They offer different rates, contract types and sources of energy.
  • If you have signed a contract with a supplier since the market was liberalised, you have a commercial supplier. Otherwise, you are served by the default supplier.
  • They bill you not only for the energy that you have used, but also for the amounts due to the other players, i.e. the costs of using the networks and various taxes.

Other bodies are also involved in the energy market to check that it is operating properly:

The federal regulator, the CREG (Commission for Electricity and Gas Regulation, website in French), checks that all the players on the market abide by the rules.  The CREG is responsible, among other things, for advising the public authorities, approving the transmission rates and calculating the social rate.

Brugel (website in French) is the energy market regulator in the Brussels-Capital Region. This is the body that issues licences for suppliers who wish to operate in the Region and monitors Sibelga and Elia (for the Brussels segment of the high-voltage network). It also grants green certificates and approves the distribution rates of Sibelga. In Flanders, Vreg fulfils this role, and in Wallonia it is Cwape (website in French).

Finally, you can call upon the energy mediation service (website in French) if you have not been able to resolve a dispute with an electricity or gas company.

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