With energy and climate change set to dominate the EU agenda in the coming years, the European Commission is to create a new energy directorate-general from 1 November 2009 at the latest.
The decision - an initiative by commission president Jose Manuel Barroso - will see senior EU official Claude Chene chair a "task force" to make detailed proposals for the scope and structure of the new "DG" by 1 May 2009. The new "DG" is expected to be around 400 to 500-strong and have its own communication, external relations and personnel units.
Energy is currently handled in the hybrid "energy and transport" directorate-general, which serves both energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs and transport commissioner Antonio Tajani, despite the pair's priorities drifting apart.
The European Commission has 41 DGs, some of which serve individual commissioners, while others handle internal business such as publications or IT.
The powerful administrative units have a big influence on commission policy, with industry commissioner Gunther Verheugen and internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy in the past complaining their own officials were working against them.
No special structure is foreseen for "climate change" however, commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said, unveiling the energy move on Wednesday (4 December).
Currently, climate change is a unit within the larger environment directorate-general. But EU officials said the environment DG bosses would be unwilling to give away this "most prominent" part of their work.
The energy DG move comes amid speculation that EU member states will create a new commissioner post of "energy and climate change" after the European Parliament elections in June 2009.
Piebalgs' big bang
Back in 2004 when the Barroso commission was set up, the energy portfolio was seen as a modest dossier.
Career diplomat Mr Piebalgs, Latvia's second choice for commissioner, got the energy post after the European Parliament declined to clear Hungarian designate Laszlo Kovacs for the job.
He inherited the shared administrative energy-transport structure from previous commission president Romano Prodi, who had merged the two units in the name of efficiency.
The newly-appointed Latvian also had to contend with Francois Lamoureux, a prominent French politician who led the merged DGs and defended his patch while he continued in the post in the first year of the Barroso era.
The energy portfolio grew in importance after the 2005 Hampton Court summit decision to create an EU energy policy, followed by the explosive events of winter 2006 and the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis.
In Spring 2006 Mr Piebalgs was mandated to draw up policies culminating with the EU's committment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent until 2020 - the main subject of the upcoming 11 December summit next week.