The natural gas supply in Germany is largely secure and reliable. This is especially true for supply to private residential customers, who are afforded special protection under EU and national law. However, as is the case in every other energy sector, the need for intervention by the competent authorities in the event of a serious deterioration in supply, in addition to market measures (i.e. measures for which businesses themselves are responsible), cannot be ruled out completely. Even though the likelihood of such a severe crisis in supply actually occurring is very small, precautionary measures have to be taken for such an event so as to ensure not only the necessary cooperation between all involved parties but also the availability of the relevant measures.
Against this background, Regulation (EU) No 994/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 concerning measures to safeguard security of gas supply and repealing Council Directive 2004/67/EC ("SoS Regulation") provides for an extensive range of instruments designed to strengthen the internal gas market and to take precautionary measures for the event of a supply crisis. On 16 February 2016, the European Commission presented a draft regulation to update this Regulation, and the draft has since been discussed in the relevant EU bodies. The legislative procedure entered the trilogue stage with the European Parliament and the Commission in early February 2017.
To this end, the national rules and the rights to establish or modify a legal relationship which apply to businesses and authorities are firmly established in the legal frameworks pertaining to Germany, most notably in the Energy Industry Act, the Energy Security of Supply Act (1975) and the Ordinance to Ensure the Supply of Gas in a Supply Crisis.
In order to maintain the high level of security of supply, it is necessary to ensure that the balancing energy market works. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy published a list of for measures to improve the security of the gas supply on 16 December 2015. Firstly, the Market Area Managers (MAMs) will be able to enter into contracts for a higher volume of existing supply products, should any abnormal regional bottlenecks occur. These supply products create a reserve which is then tapped when the amount of balancing energy required by the MAMs can no longer be covered by the regular short-term balancing energy market alone. Secondly, there is to be a new balancing energy product. This is to enable large numbers of industrial customers to voluntarily reduce their gas demand (demand-side management) in order to help safeguard security of supply.
In the European Union, security of gas supply is a shared responsibility of natural gas undertakings, Member States, notably through their competent authorities, and the European Commission within their respective areas of activities and competence. This shared responsibility requires a concerted exchange of information and cooperation between stakeholders.
Basically, the SoS Regulation distinguishes between three crisis levels (early warning level, alert level and emergency level). It provides for market-based measures by the gas undertakings at the first two levels and, additionally, the possibility for the state to intervene solely in the case of emergency. In this regard, it sets out the areas of competence and duties of undertakings, national authorities and the European Commission and calls on Member States to set out in advance, and within the framework of Preventive and Emergency Action Plans, how they envisage managing a crisis as well as the preventive measures they will take. The competent authority for ensuring the aforementioned measures is the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Responsibility for regularly establishing and updating the risk assessment with regard to security of the natural gas supply in Germany has been transferred to the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA).
As provided in the SoS Regulation, the plans were updated in December 2016.