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Internal market in gas (from March 2011)

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Internal market in gas (from March 2011)

The internal market in natural gas suffers from a lack of transparency which impedes its proper functioning. The European Commission therefore considered it necessary to redefine the rules and measures applying to that market in order to guarantee fair competition and appropriate consumer protection.


Directive 2009/73/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas and repealing Directive 2003/55/EC (Text with EEA relevance).


This Directive aims at introducing common rules for the transmission, distribution, supply and storage of natural gas. It concerns mainly natural gas, liquefied natural gas (LNG), biogas and gas from biomass.

Rules for the organisation of the sector

The rules for the organisation of the sector are aimed at creating a competitive, secure and environmentally sustainable market in natural gas.

Member States may impose on undertakings operating in the gas sector public service obligations which cover issues of security and security of supply, regularity and quality of service, price, environmental protection and energy efficiency.

Member States shall ensure that all customers have the right to choose their gas supplier and to change supplier easily, with their operator’s assistance, within three weeks. They shall also ensure that customers receive relevant consumption data.

Member States are responsible for monitoring security of supply issues and in particular those related to the balance of supply and demand on the national market, available supplies, maintenance of the networks and the measures to be taken in the event of supply problems. Regional or international cooperation may be put in place to ensure security of supply.

Member States shall ensure the integration of national markets at one or more regional levels, as a first step towards the integration of a fully liberalised internal market. The gas islands in isolated regions shall also be integrated. In this context, the national regulatory authorities shall cooperate with the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators.

Transmission, storage and LNG

From 3 March 2012, Member States shall unbundle transmission systems and transmission system operators.

An undertaking must first be certified before being officially designated as a transmission system operator. A list of transmission system operators designated by Member States shall then be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

In addition, Member States have to designate one or more storage and LNG system operators responsible for:

  • operating, maintaining and developing transmission systems, storage and/or LNG facilities with due regard to the environment;
  • ensuring non-discrimination between system users;
  • providing information to any other transmission system operator, any other storage system operator, any other LNG system operator and/or any distribution system operator to ensure the interconnection of the transmission and storage of natural gas;
  • providing system users with the information they need to access the system.

Transmission system operators must build sufficient cross-border capacity to integrate the European transmission infrastructure. Every year, they shall submit to the regulatory authority a ten-year network development plan indicating the main infrastructure that needs to be built or modernised as well as the investments to be executed over the next ten years.

Distribution and supply

Member States must designate distribution system operators or require undertakings which own or are responsible for distribution systems to do so.

Distribution system operators are mainly responsible for:

  • ensuring the long-term capacity of the system in terms of the distribution of gas, operation, maintenance, development and environmental protection;
  • ensuring transparency with respect to system users;
  • providing system users with information;
  • covering energy losses and maintaining reserve capacity.

The distribution system operator must be independent in legal terms from other activities not relating to distribution.

Distribution systems responsible for distributing natural gas within a geographically confined industrial, commercial or shared services site may be classified by the competent authorities as closed distribution systems. On this basis, they may be exempted from the requirement to have their tariffs, or the methodologies underlying their calculation, approved in advance.

Unbundling and transparency of accounts

Member States and the competent authorities have right of access to the accounts of natural gas undertakings but shall preserve the confidentiality of certain information.

Natural gas undertakings must keep separate accounts for all of their activities relating to the supply of gas, such as transmission and distribution.

Organisation of access to the system

Member States or the competent regulatory authorities are responsible for defining the conditions for access to storage facilities and linepack. They must take measures to ensure that eligible customers can obtain access to upstream pipeline networks. Moreover, they have to organise a system of third party access to transmission and distribution systems.

Natural gas undertakings may refuse access to the system on the basis of lack of capacity or where access to the system would compromise the performance of their public service obligations. Substantiated reasons must be given for any such a refusal.

Final provisions

A Member State may take the necessary safeguard measures in the event of a sudden crisis in the market or where the safety of persons is threatened. These measures must be notified to the other Member States and to the Commission.

This Directive repeals Directive 2003/55/EC as from 3 March 2011.


The 2007 Commission Communications entitled Prospects for the internal gas and electricity market and Sector inquiry into the gas and electricity markets highlighted the inadequacy of the rules and measures in force relating to the internal market in gas in meeting the objectives laid down for the proper functioning of the internal market. The adoption of new rules was required.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2009/73/EC



OJ L211 of 14.8.2009

2012/148/EU : Commission Recommendation of 9 March 2012 on preparations for the roll-out of smart metering systems [Official Journal L 73 of 13.3.2012]

The European Commission has set out detailed recommendations regarding (i) data protection and security, (ii) methodology for the economic assessment of the long-term costs and benefits for the roll-out of smart metering systems, and (iii) common minimum functional requirements for smart metering systems for electricity.

EU Member States are encouraged to take all necessary measures to follow the recommendation and to draw it to the attention of all stakeholders involved in designing and operating smart grid applications within the EU. By 3 September 2012, in accordance with Directive 2009/73/EC, they had to report to the Commission on the results of their cost-benefit analysis regarding the roll-out of smart metering systems and on the measures and plans they have adopted in relation to this Recommendation.

Last updated: 13.01.2014