European gas liberalisation plans quietly progressing

Apr 23, 1998 02:00 AM

The European Parliament's energy committee approved plans to open at least 20 % of the European Union gas market to competition by 2000. This clears the way for the full 626-member parliament - the EU's directly-elected assembly - to approve the draft gas law on April 30, and for EU energy ministers to rubber stamp the deal on May 11.
EU diplomats voiced concern that the energy committee would demand changes to the draft gas directive that might have upset the fragile compromise between the widely differing interests of the 15 EU countries, thus delaying final adoption of the bill.
Several Euro-MPs tabled amendments to the directive that would have given cogenerators greater access to the competitive market, ensured a clearer separation of transmission, distribution and supply activities within integrated companies, and widened third-party access to gas storage facilities.
But in the event the amendments were rejected.
The only change to the text which the energy committee accepted was a demand that the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - should review the impact of the liberalisation plans 3 years after they came into force.
Peter Claus, secretary general of the European gas industry association Eurogas, told he welcomed the decision. "We are certainly in favour of the speedy adoption of the directive," he said.
As it stands, the directive allows all gas-fired power generators to negotiate freely with suppliers. But it says EU governments may, if they choose, only allow CHP producers to participate in the liberalised market if they consume more than 25 mm cubic metres of natural gas per year.
The cogeneration industry lobby group Cogen Europe says this amounts to discrimination against CHP producers. Cogen Europe director Simon Minett has told that he was "deeply depressed" at the energy committee's decision. Minett has said that the reasons behind the decision were difficult to fathom as the committee in a separate report called for EU governments to domore to promote CHP.
The Commission suggests the share of CHP in the EU electricity market should be increased from 9 to 18 % by 2010.

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