France opens gas supply competition

By an OGJ correspondent
PARIS, Dec. 23 -- France's parliament Friday finally turned the European Union directive on natural gas liberalization into local law, opening 20% of the French gas market to competition to supply the country's biggest gas consumers practically 2½ years after the EU deadline of Aug. 10, 2000.

France had been called to task for that delay by the European Court of Justice. All of France's biggest industrial consumers of natural gas are to be open to competitive suppliers by mid-2004. Full opening of the whole French gas market to competition is scheduled by mid-2007.

The new French law determines conditions for access to the network, transparency and regulation, transport and distribution, underground storage, controls and sanctions.

The French commission for electric power regulation of electricity will become the new commission for regulation of energy, encompassing the gas market as well.

Gaz de France had not waited for the EU directive to become law before opening its market for large gas consumers. But some EU countries, especially Spain, had taken discriminatory measures against the utility claiming France's market was not opened officially.

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