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New gas law opens up Irish market From Gas Daily Europe. Published: July 16 2001
Jul 16, 2001

The Irish government has taken another step towards liberalising its almost 4bn m/yr gas sector. Legislation published last Friday will lower the consumption threshold at which consumers can gain access to the gas network and also allow them to source their own supplies. Previously customers had to use more than 25m m/yr to be eligible, but under the terms of the new bill this level will be reduced to 2m m/yr.

Although this might allow up to 100 new customers to access the network, the Department for Public Enterprise (DPE) believes they will still be large-scale users, such as combined heat and power plants and factories. The aim of Irish authorities is to have the commercial market fully liberalized by 2003 and domestic and commercial markets by 2005 at the latest. Once the new legislation is enacted in the autumn, more than 80% of the Irish gas market will be opened up - considerably more than the 28% required under the EU gas directive.

The bill also gives the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) responsibility for regulating access to the gas transmission network, giving consent for the building of gas pipelines and licensing gas undertakings. The Government believes independent regulation is a natural development for the energy sectors. Thus, the role of the CER is extended to the GAS sector to ensure that the electricity and gas sectors are regulated in a consistent manner.

Irish state-owned monopoly Bord Gais Eireann (BGE) said the bill will allow customers to buy gas directly from a favored supplier through the gas grid, with BGE charging for transportation. But it does not expect the new regulation to reduce its market share - BGE has retained all its industrial customers by absorbing a 47% rise in gas costs rather than passing it on.

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