There are a large number of active players on the German gas market, which ensures competition. They include 16 transmission system operators, over 700 distribution system operators, 25 storage operators and numerous traders. Cooperation between these stakeholder groups ensures smooth supply of natural gas.
Germany still has two market areas, which are operated by the affiliated companies GASPOOL Balancing Services GmbH and NetConnect Germany GmbH & Co. KG (NCG). The two market area managers coordinate the activities of the gas network operators in their respective market areas, and they handle the operation of the virtual trading point, balancing group management and system balancing activities on behalf of the transmission system operators.
Via traders, gas network and storage operators to the consumer
The traders buy gas on the market and sell it to end users, suppliers and large consumers. Municipal utilities and regional gas suppliers conclude supply contracts with consumers. To move their gas, they book transmission capacities or, more precisely, entry and exit capacities with network operators. The pipelines used to deliver the gas belong to the gas network operators who guarantee safe gas transportation and charge a fee for this service. They also undertake to expand their networks as needed. The legal framework for gas trading, transmission and distribution is set out in the Energy Industry Act (EnWG). Network operation is also subject to regulation by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) which monitors the market as an independent regulatory authority.
The gas imported from abroad or produced in Germany is not necessarily consumed straight away. This is where storage facilities come into play. Storage operators offer their storage capacities to traders who can use them both for precautionary and/or arbitrage purposes. The decision to merge the NCG and GASPOOL market areas into one German market area with effect from 1 October 2021 is intended to further simplify gas trading across Germany. The market area managers and transmission system operators are currently working on the details of this process to ensure a continued, reliable supply of gas.