The Federal Act of 4 October 1963 on Pipeline Systems for the Transport of Liquid or Gas Fuel (Rohrleitungsgesetz, or RLG, SR 746.1) makes little mention of network access, with only a very rudimentary provision on transport obligations. Article 13, para. 1 of the RLG stipulates that network operators must provide commercial transport services for outside parties, if technically feasible and economically justifiable, and in exchange for fair remuneration. Beyond that provision, the behaviour of the various market players is governed by general competition law, in particular the Federal Act on Cartels and other Restraints of Competition of 6 October 1995 (Cartel Act, CartA; 251).
In compliance with its statutory transport obligation, the gas industry on 1 October 2012 concluded an agreement governing network access with two associations of major industrial customers (IGEB and IG Erdgas). This agreement is referred to as the industry accord (Verbändevereinbarung). Among other provisions, the accord defines the private-law framework for network access. This includes a minimum reservation volume for transport capacity, 150 Nm3/h (reduced from 200 Nm3/h as of 1 October 2015), the condition that the gas in question be used primarily for the creation of process heat for industrial purposes, and the requirement that the customer provide the load measurement using remote data. Network access requests are handled by the Transmission Coordination Centre (KSDL), which also supervises the transport operations. Negotiations are currently underway for an overhaul of the industry accord with a view to introducing an entry-exit system in line with current European practices. The review should also establish a single balancing area covering all of Switzerland apart from the ‘network islands' (Tessin and Kreuzlingen).
The gas industry submitted the industry accord to the Competition Commission (ComCo) for preliminary consultation. While the ComCo in its final report of 16 December 2013 (see the Law and Policy on Competition publication no. 2014/1, pp 110 ff.) decided against initiating an investigation, it explicitly reserved the right to open an individual case in the event of an infringement of the Cartel Act. This creates a degree of legal uncertainty, particularly in view of the resulting threat of sanctions (see, for example, Article 49a of the Cartel Act). A more detailed legislative vehicle could remedy the situation.
In reply to a parliamentary question (No. 14.5054), the Federal Council in early 2014 stated that the opening of the gas market was being examined, and would be subject to a suitable legislative framework. The drafting of a gas supply act (Gasversorgungsgesetz, GasVG) was put on the Federal Council's legislative programme for 2015-2019. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy is already working on a draft bill.
The intention is to build on the legacy of the current industry accord and its subsequent updates, on the one hand; but also, on the other hand, to aim for maximum compliance with the applicable EU standards (Regulation No. 715/2009 and Directive 2009/73/EC) with the new bill. The work has been organised thematically as follows
- Balancing rules
- Network usage model
- Network pricing
- Security of supply
- Legal and regulatory matters (unbundling, network operators, regulator)
- Transversal issues (market opening, isolated regions, transparency)
For each thematic group, the intention is to identify the requirements for a framework to ensure a functioning gas market and a secure supply, supported by external studies where required, and to show whether and where legislation is required. These reports will serve as the foundation for the draft bill.