Discussion Papers

Andreas Hense

Gasmarktregulierung in Europa: Ansätze, Erfahrungen und mögliche Implikationen für das deutsche Regulierungsmodell
Nr. 263 / März 2005


Notwithstanding full liberalisation of the German energy market in 1998 the strength of competition in the gas sector is still negligible. Concepts aiming to change this situation have failed so far. Experts identify the present point-to-point access model accompanied by distance-related tariff structures as the main reason for this market failure. This model impedes the pooling and trading of imbalance services and therefore significantly constrains the liquidity of the secondary market. In order to ensure workable competition and to lay the foundations for marketable bulk business a regulatory framework consistent with the principles of competition has to be implemented. Main issues in this context are adequate rules with regard to congestion management, transparency, balancing and tariff calculation. Against this background a closer look on the market conditions and regulatory framework in selected European gas markets (Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom) could provide valuable insights for the German legislator.

The national unbundling rules in the six selected countries all fulfil the minimum requirements of the Gas Directive 2003/55/EC. In some countries the legal provisions are even more restrictive. On the transportation level an international tendency towards ownership unbundling is observed. In all countries but Spain access to the gas networks is granted by entry-exit-models. The balancing zones in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK encompass the whole national market. In Austria the three balancing zones are due to spatially unconnected network systems. Although the French gas market is divided into eight balancing zones at present, regulatory intention is to reduce these zones to two until 2009 at the latest. First-come-first-served is the dominant principle for the allocation of network capacities in the selected countries. Only in the UK auctions – the most competitive way to allocate the capacities – are taking place. Moreover, the British gas network poses as virtual platform for the short-term trade with gas and capacity rights (the same is true for the Dutch system and has started just shortly in the Italian network). Provided that liquidity is sufficient these virtual market places allow for balancing prices close to the prevailing market price. Therefore, they explicitly increase the willingness of potential newcomers to entry the respective gas markets. To this end gas release programmes and the development of new import capacities have also been appropriate measures in order to strengthen the gas-to-gas competition in the countries regarded.

In all selected countries the network tariffs are regulated ex ante. In Italy, the Netherlands and the UK incentive-oriented tariff regulation models have been implemented (i.e. price caps and revenue caps respectively). In the other countries the tariffs are defined on a cost-oriented base. Only the Austrian regulator uses historical acquisition and production costs as well as nominal interest rates for these calculatory purposes. Furthermore, the Dutch and the Italian regulatory framework comprise benchmarking approaches. Finally, quality aspects become more important. In particular the British regulator is about to integrate quality elements in the current revenue cap formula.
[Only German language version available.]

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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