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Reuters: German court forces gas shippers to be transparent

Tue Jun 19, 2007 7:19AM EDT

FRANKFURT, June 19 (Reuters) – Germany’s High Court (BGH) has ruled that operators of gas transmission grids must allow energy regulator Bundesnetzagentur access to internal data, it said on Tuesday.

It said publishing internal data would not hamper the companies in their freedom to operate as they wished, tightening conditions for the entire industry.

Three gas transport firms, ExxonMobil Gastransport, ExxonMobil/Shell joint venture BEB  and VNG Ontras, had complained about stipulations forcing them to cooperate with the regulator in 2005, a complaint which the court threw out.

The regulatory authority started up two years ago and, equipped with a brief to bring more competition, has enforced many changes to the previously closed and fragmented gas network, against opposition from established companies.

It has forced open access to grids to third parties, while the cartel office stopped gas suppliers’ practice of locking customers into bilateral supply deals which sometimes ran over 20 years.

This is all intended to support the Europen Union’s drive to open up and harmonise energy markets in the bloc to help customers.

The regulator aims to create a model for incentive-based regulation to ensure efficient network operations from 2009.

For this the authority needs details about network structures and costs, which the three companies had initially denied, citing possible competitive issues.

But they eventually supplied the data ahead of the latest ruling.

“The position of the regulator vis-a-vis the utilities has been strengthened,” said a group of small energy users, BDE, in a statement, adding the ruling was only one step and network usage tariffs also needed to be cut more to help consumers.

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