The opening of the 25th Meeting of the European Gas Regulatory Forum here in Madrid was today (6 May 2014) disrupted by a large group of employees of the Comision Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) (the Forum’s venue) protesting at having not being paid for a number of months and accusing the President of the CNMC of cronyism.
Their chosen form of protest, the blowing of whistles in the high ceilinged refectory, just outside the conference hall had a carnival feel, belying the serious message they were trying to get across. This racket, ensured that the Forum’s opening address was delayed by half an hour as the whistles echoing round the building meant nothing could be heard. I took the opportunity, during the delay to walk amongst the protesters to find out what their grievances were and between pantomime hissing at my European Commission name badge was told the background and that they wanted to highlight this on an international stage.
After half an hour the protest dissipated and the Forum proper was able to get underway.
The theme of the first day of the Forum was the Present and Future Challenges in the EU Gas Sector and the main focus was on the impact of the Ukraine crisis and the long term effect upon security of supply and market development. This was set in the context of Europe’s reliance upon gas from Russia/Ukraine and a lengthy debate around the importance of storage and the development of LNG as a source followed. The outcome of this was that ENTSO-G noted that they would be updating their risk assessment in the light of the new modelling, based on developments, that had taken place.
This was followed by a presentation by ACER on the Bridge to 2025 green paper. ACER placed this in the context of the dual focuses of the Greek EU Presidency: the completion of the Internal Energy Market (3rd Package) by the end of 2014 and the aim of ensuring that all Member States are connected to the EU network by the end of 2015. The Forum debated the paper in the context of the gas and electricity wholesale markets and stressed the need for assurances to ensure sufficient infrastructure investment. ACER noted the implications for the governance of the relevant institutions and indicated a desire to ensure that they are fit for purpose and are able to meet the challenges up ahead. They was also discussion around how infrastructure investment is driven by market signals and that most regulators deploy output based incentive mechanisms to inculcate investment in infrastructure.
Much of the other discussion centred around Transmission and trading, but there was an encouraging debate about promoting gas in transport which demonstrates a future of gas in the long term beyond its critical role in heating.