Speaking at the 5th Swiss Electricity Conference in Bern last week (10 January), Oettinger argued for faster liberalisation of the Swiss power market.
According to the EU commissioner, Switzerland could become one of the most important hubs for electricity storage in Europe, due to its central geographic position, its good infrastructure and its flexible capacity for hydroelectric power.
The EU is planning to put in place a common electricity market with the participation of Switzerland and Norway.
Oettinger also wants Switzerland to join ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, as a way to include the country in further planning of future networks.
However, Oettinger demanded efforts from Switzerland in return, alluding to bilateral negotiations on an energy agreement with the EU that have been ongoing since November 2007.
The goal of the negotiations is to harmonise rules for Swiss and EU operators, to help guarantee supply and boost investment in networks.
Oettinger wants the agreement to integrate Switzerland further into EU decision-making on energy and technology infrastructure, but also on consumer rights.
The commissioner said the discussions had been given a boost by the liberalisation of the Swiss power market, and said the EU was counting on Bern to continue on this track.
Switzerland liberalised its commercial electricity market in 2009 and is planning to do the same for private customers in 2014. The EU began its liberalisation much earlier.
The EU also wants Switzerland to agree to a common set of rules and a dispute settlement procedure. It wants Swiss subsidies for renewables to be reviewed and, in the long run, discontinued. In the EU they are decreasing on an annual basis.
Decision by mid-2011
At the conference, Oettinger met Doris Leuthard, president of the Swiss Confederation. He expects the the bloc and its Swiss partner to come to a decision by mid-2011.
The country already shares the EU's 2020 targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use by 20% as well as using 20% renewables by 2020.
Switzerland and the EU are also trying to further their cooperation in the field of transport. With Germany, however, a disagreement on a transnational rail connection project seems to have reached an impasse.
Switzerland has urged Germany to make swift progress with its expansion, but there is a need for up to €5 billion of investment on the German side, which means the project may take until 2030 to complete.