RIGA - In the first reading on Dec. 12, Latvia’s Saeima supported in principle amendments to the Energy Law to ensure third party access to Latvia’s natural gas distribution system, reports LETA. Eighty MPs, both from the coalition and the opposition, supported the bill.
Three parliament members - Rihards Eigims (Green/Farmers), Raimonds Vejonis (Greens/Farmers) and Karlis Serzants (Greens/Farmers) - abstained, while eight MPs from various parties did not participate in the vote.
Saeima Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee Chairman Janis Ozolins (Reform Party) emphasized that these amendments foresee the gradual opening of the Latvian gas market. “This will take place very gradually and with much thought put into it,” said Ozolins.
Currently, there is one vertically-integrated company in Latvia - Latvijas Gaze - that buys, stores, transports, distributes and sells natural gas in Latvia. Latvia’s natural gas supply system is not connected to any other European Union member state’s system, except Lithuania and Estonia, and Russia remains the sole supplier of natural gas to Latvia.
The objective of the amendments, drafted by the Economy Ministry, is to transpose the Third Energy Package, a directive from the European Union, into Latvian legislation to force liberalization of the natural gas market of Latvia, to encourage alternative supplies and competition on the market.
The first stage of the gas market liberalization plan stipulates ensuring third party access to the natural gas supply system of Latvia, and separating the function of the distribution operator by Jan. 1, 2015. The directive also deals with natural gas company annual reports and other aspects of natural gas market liberalization.
The Economic Ministry notes that the EU rules are binding on Latvia, and that Latvia has already been given two transition periods. Therefore, the first stage of the liberalization of the natural gas market is to commence and proceed pursuant to all the requirements of the Third Energy Package.