New European gas market design: infrastructure and climate challenges

The future of the gas market design and its role in EU energy supply and climate targets is now being discussed. In the light of this, Forum für Zukunftsenergien (German Forum for Future Energies) organised a conference on the future role of gas infrastructure in view of the upcoming challenges for necessary greenhouse gas emission mitigation, which took place on 20th of March in Brussels.

This event comes shortly after the Commission’s ‘Quo Vadis’ study on the future gas market design in Europe, which identifies the challenges of the current market regulatory framework and discusses possible measures for improvement. The European Commission is indeed seeking to strengthen EU gas markets. Dr. Florian Ermacora, Head of Unit at the Directorate-General for Energy of the European Commission present at the conference, announced that the EU executive will initiate a major study to evaluate the potential of power-to-gas technologies.

Green gases can provide different solutions in this new gas market. Renewable hydrogen, for instance, can easily be inserted into existing grids and used to decarbonise huge industry sectors, such as the steel industry. Representatives of the European Biogas Association (EBA) brought also awareness on biomethane production as a technology and energy carrier already available today. Biomethane can be obtained from the transformation of hydrogen using carbon dioxide (power-to-gas). It is a renewable gas, which is technically and chemically equivalent to natural gas and does not require extensive and expensive modification of the European gas grids.

A study by Frontier Economics Ltd. presented during the conference showed the EU could save around €12 billion per year in decarbonisation costs by introducing green gas in the existing gas infrastructure. This would also increase security of supply and general acceptance of the energy transition process, according to Dr. Matthias Janssen, one of the authors of the study. Gas storage is also crucial in the new market design, explained the researcher, as there are large seasonal differences in demand, especially in the heating sector. Both gas infrastructure and gas storage are seen as key factors to enable sector coupling.

The need for a solid regulatory framework to build a consistent gas market was highlighted by different panellists. A stable framework is essential to develop the necessary infrastructure and address the challenges concerning gas capacity and power-to-gas technologies. At EU and international levels, the importance of determining how and where green gas capacity can be installed was also pointed out.

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