Europe's natural gas - How has regulation evolved?

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In light of the EAGC's 30th anniversary, James Ball, Founder of the EAGC and now Independent Director at Cheniere Energy Partners, discusses with Gastech News how gas and electricity regulations have evolved over the past 30 years.

When the EAGC first met, 30 years ago, there was not a single gas, let alone electricity, regulator in Europe. But with the creation of Ofgas in the UK, then a handful of electricity regulators in several European countries it became inevitable that independent regulation of gas and electricity would spread to, at least, every EU country.

At first they were exclusively national. The first time European gas regulators met in the same place was on an EAGC panel in Barcelona in the late 1990s and we included several electricity regulators from countries yet to have a gas regulator.

Now most countries have, like the British Ofgem and Italy’s Autorità, a joint gas and electricity regulator – sometimes wielding competition powers as well – and to coordinate across the EU they have regulator/industry forums (Madrid Forum for Gas, Florence for Electricity) not to mention the oft-renamed body of European regulators the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER aka ACER aka ERGEG).

On the European level, while the Energy Directorate of the Commission (DG Ener) has written the directives, DG Competition drove most of the drastic change to industry structure, using measures from its famous dawn raids to its merger conditions. These moves and pure business logic have fundamentally altered the commercial structure around European gas in the last 15 years.

The future of regulation is very fluid as both before, and especially since, the financial crisis financial regulation has crept into energy regulation often in a blunt and counterproductive way. Also there is a big difference between reforming pipeline companies and supervising competitive infrastructures; a fact that continues to evade many regulators and irk many regulated companies.

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