Public service obligations in the European Union Internal Energy Market foresee the right of consumers to be connected to the electricity grid as much as the right to be supplied with electricity at an affordable price - which is termed a universal service in Article 27 of the Directive (EU) 2019/944 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on common rules for the internal market in electricity (recast), (Article 3(3) in its predecessor - Directive 2009/72/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity).
The same Directive envisions that suppliers of last resort (SOLR) might be appointed by the EU Member States to ensure the provision of universal service.
A universal service is included into responsibilities, which energy service companies have to meet to protect the general economic interest (services of general economic interest - SGEI).
ACER/CEER Annual Report of 22 October 2018 on the Results of Monitoring the Internal Electricity and Natural Gas Markets in 2017, Consumer Empowerment Volume underlines that the European legislation, and in particular Article 3 of the Electricity and Gas Directives, equips the EU Member States with the opportunity to introduce a series of obligations on energy sector undertakings in relation to, inter alia, the quality of supply and universal service, i.e. consumers’ right to be supplied with electricity of a specified quality at reasonable, easily comparable, transparent and non-discriminatory prices.
Despite the fact that the Directive 2009/73/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas and repealing Directive 2003/55/EC does not foresee universal service, it nonetheless promotes a supply of last resort mechanism for gas consumers.
In addition, some EU Member States have introduced default suppliers.
Despite being functionally distinct from supply of last resort, they are often addressed together with supply of last resort, since they also secure energy supply to consumers in precarious situations.
However, to fully guarantee market liberalisation and consumer protection, neither supply of last resort nor default supply should provide a backdoor to price regulation (ACER/CEER Annual Report on the Results of Monitoring the Internal Electricity and Gas Markets in 2015, Consumer Protection and Empowerment, November 2016, p. 7).