The creation of a single European gas market : lessons to be learnt from the Dutch, Austrian and German gas markets : what is required to create a more harmonised, liberalised and secure European gas market?
EU Member States are being confronted with a range of varied and complex issues within their energy markets, which require considerable effort and ingenuity to mitigate. Theses issues and problems are particularly apparent in the European natural gas market. Natural gas has become one of the key elements of the energy mix in a number of EU Member States and continues to develop rapidly in newly emerging gas markets. A lack of significant natural gas resource endowments in much of the EU means that many Member States have become highly dependent on gas imports, particularly from non-EU countries. Despite the European Commission's long held objective of bringing about both a harmonised and a liberalised EU gas market, this aim remains far from being reached. This is attributable to a discernible reluctance within some Member States and various gas industry stakeholders to work on the creation of such a market and, in so doing, to simultaneously address the increasingly important issue of security of supply. Within this context, and as individual markets continue to liberalise ahead of full market opening in July 2007, it becomes increasingly apparent that existing EU legislation is often insufficient to establish a harmonised and fully liberalised single European gas market that also supports security of gas supply. This thesis addresses the question of what conditions are required to create a more harmonised, liberalised and secure EU gas market. This analysis is undertaken in the following manner. First, the issue of security of supply is discussed in the context of the currently changing legal and regulatory structure across the EU. It then analyses existing EU legislation, guidelines and Commission decisions and examines how these documents support the establishment of a liberalised and harmonised single European gas market that addresses security of supply issues. Following this discussion the thesis then undertakes case studies of three key and pivotal European gas markets - The Netherlands, Austria and Germany - to analyse (with specific reference to individual gas market characteristics) whether national legislation will serve to improve overall EU gas market harmonisation and liberalisation efforts. Finally, this thesis concludes with specific recommendations on what is necessary to create a more harmonised and liberalised EU gas market that also supports security of gas supply.