The European Commission has approved an up to €406.4 million Dutch scheme to support the filling of the gas storage facility Bergermeer.
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The scheme was approved under Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU'), recognising that the EU economy is experiencing a serious disturbance.
The Netherlands notified to the Commission a scheme to support the filling of the gas storage facility Bergermeer in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
This measure will enable the Netherlands to ensure that existing gas storage facilities on its territory are filled up to at least 80% of their capacity by 1 November 2022 and thus comply with the gas storage level obligation foreseen in the recently adopted regulation on gas storage.
In order to meet the above-mentioned obligation, the Netherlands needs to ensure the partial filling of the Bergermeer facility, a large seasonal storage facility for High Calorific gas.
The Bergermeer facility, which is also used by neighbouring countries, is different from other storage facilities in the Netherlands, which are used to store Low Calorific gas, historically largely sourced from the Groningen gas field located on Dutch territory.
For the latter storage facilities, the Netherlands had already put in place a filling agreement to ensure an adequate storage level in view of the planned gradual closure of the Groningen gas field.
This measure is therefore only necessary to ensure the partial filling of the Bergermeer storage facility for High Calorific gas.
In general, market participants have an incentive to store gas if, at the time of storing, they expect prices in the winter to be higher than summer prices, so as to be able to cover at least the storage costs.
Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of insurance against negative winter-summer gas price spreads, i.e. when market gas prices are higher in summer when buying and storing gas, compared to the winter when selling it.
The aid will incentivise market participants to fill seasonal gas storages by covering the costs of storing gas during summer for the winter season when the winter-summer gas spreads are too low to cover costs; and potential losses incurred in case of negative winter-summer gas price spreads.
The maximum amount that the Netherlands could be liable for amounts to €406.4 million.
If the average spread between winter and summer gas prices is positive and covers the costs of storing the gas for winter, the Dutch government would not need to provide support.
The aid will be awarded through a competitive tender process in two separate auctions carried out on 30 May and 7 June 2022. The competitive bidding process will ensure that the aid is kept at the minimum.
Furthermore, the public support includes provisions to limit undue distortions of competition, including a profit sharing mechanism with the Dutch government in case of excessive unexpected profits. It also avoids possible negative impacts on the functioning of spot and forward gas markets. ■
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