The Romanian Government amended and supplemented the Energy Law through an Emergency Ordinance (the “Emergency Ordinance”) recently published in the Official Gazette. The Emergency Ordinance aims to establish a competitive, transparent and non-discriminatory mechanism for natural gas transactions on the Romanian market.
An important provision consists in removing the legal restrictions regarding natural gas exports starting on 1 April 2017. Under the previous version of the Energy Law, natural gas producers had an obligation to ensure with priority the amounts of natural gas necessary to cover consumption for household customers and thermal energy producers, and only the remaining natural gas could be traded on the competitive market. Such modification was long awaited by the participants to the energy market and will align the energy legislation with the European provisions of Articles 35 and 36 of the TFEU.
In addition, the timetable for the liberalization of domestic natural gas prices for household consumers will be removed on 1 April 2017. In the lack of such timetable, the prices shall be regulated by the Romanian Regulatory Authority for Energy depending on the approved costs of the suppliers. It is not clear whether or not the proposed amendment will be in favour of the household customers in the case of a price increase, risk which was covered by the price liberalization timetable.
Also, the Emergency Ordinance places an obligation on natural gas producers and suppliers to conclude agreements on the Romanian competitive markets in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner. Therefore, natural gas shall be traded either on OPCOM, a public company controlled by Transelectrica and the Ministry of the Economy, or on the Romanian Commodities Exchange, a private company. A point in need of clarification is the quantity of natural gas which should be traded on these markets, given the fact that currently the application norms of the Energy Law provide for the year 2017 a quantity of at least 25% from annual natural gas production/company and for the year 2018 a minimum percentage of 20%.