Gasunie: Dutch interests - YES, National champions - NO

Groningen | press release

Gas transportation company Gasunie noted with approval the Dutch cabinet vision of the gas market, as expressed in the formal "gas letter" of 20 March 2006. A first reaction from Marcel Kramer, Chairman of the Board of Directors, ran as follows: "We warmly support the cabinet's opinion that a good investment climate is of great importance for our security of supply and for efficient market operations. Companies both at home and abroad consider the Netherlands as an increasingly attractive option for the supply and transmission of gas, also because Gasunie's transport system can offer good connections with the rest of Europe. If Gasunie can make profitable and timely investments, this will also enable the supply of additional gas, without congestion occurring. That is then favourable for the future gas supply of the Netherlands and Europe and also favourable for the Dutch government, which has invested many billions in Gasunie". Just last year, Esso and Shell received a net amount of almost 3 billion euros for the sale of their 50% share in the Gasunie transport company to the State.

Kramer went on to say that Gasunie is fully occupied in fulfilling its role as the government sees it. Examples of this, in addition to the expansion of the Dutch gas transmission network and storage facilities, are current projects such as the construction of a major pipeline between the Netherlands and England (BBL), the GATE LNG-terminal project, and the participation in the new Russian pipeline through the Baltic Sea (NEGP or Baltic), a project which is of financial and strategic significance for the Netherlands. All such projects are often executed in fierce direct competition with foreign gas transport companies, which in most cases are still linked to trading companies. Also trading decisions are important for these projects. The Netherlands too still holds a strong trading position in Europe.

It is extremely uncertain whether the Dutch model of 'unbundling' (the separation of trading and transport interests at owner level) that has been applied to Gasunie, will also be widely copied throughout Europe. "We're not harping on about the division that took place last year, we just want to make a success of it" says Kramer, "but it is very clear to us that European energy policy urgently needs reinforcement if genuine competition is to be achieved. Incidentally, Gasunie is not impressed by the plea for 'national champions', whereas cooperation within the Netherlands can be a really good thing. An integrated approach to European policy leading to an efficient European gas transmission system, in which the Netherlands "hub" shows full collaboration, is sorely needed. Consequently there is a pressing need for more intensive cooperation with similar companies in neighbouring countries and this can produce billions for all parties involved".

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