Latvia Opens Natural Gas Market To Competition
RIGA, April 3 - Latvia opened its natural gas market on Monday aiming to end its decades-long energy dependency on Russia's Gazprom by providing third-party access to the country's natural gas system.
Latvia is the last Baltic country to liberalise its gas market by splitting monopoly gas utility Latvijas Gaze, in which Russia's Gazprom owns 34 percent.
A new company - Conexus Baltic Grid - has been spun off. The transmission and storage operator is in charge of the region's largest underground gas storage which has a capacity of 2.3 billion cubic metres.
Latvia's efforts to liberalise are in line with European Union rules which state that energy production and supplies must be separated from transmission and storage infrastructure. The plans were set by Latvia's parliament in 2014.
"This is a fundamental change for Latvia," Economics Minister Arvils Aseradens told Reuters in an interview on Friday.
He said that anyone registered as a gas trader with the country's regulator is entitled to buy and supply gas to Latvia from April 3.
The prime ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia agreed in December to establish a regional Baltic gas market by 2020. Further plans call for connecting the market to Finland via a planned Estonian–Finnish pipeline called the Baltic Connector which is expected to begin operations in 2020.
The government then hopes the Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL) pipeline will connect the Baltic gas market to mainland Europe by 2021.
Aseradens said that while Latvia now consumes around 1.3 billion cubic metres of gas annually, the unified Baltic market will encompass nearly 4.6 billion cubic metres.
(Editing by Daniel Dickson and Jason Neely)
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