According to the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), removing natural-gas connections for safety reasons is part of the general management responsibility of system operators of natural gas. This means that ACM allows system operators to incorporate the costs of such removals (like any other costs associated with system operation) into the transport tariffs that are paid by everyone that is connected to the gas system. ACM will work this out in greater detail in the method decision for distribution system operators of natural gas for 2022-2026 and in future tariff decisions.
Following the amendment of the Tariff Code for Natural Gas of 25 February 2021, ACM established, in accordance with the Regulation on tariff structures and conditions for natural gas amended by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK), that small-scale users do not need to incur any costs for having gas connections removed, provided that they file a request for such removals with the distribution system operator.
The distribution system operators have indicated they are confronted with uncertainty if a request for removal is missing. They had asked the Ministry of EZK to incorporate also any removal costs without such requests into the tariffs. In a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives of 8 February 2021, the Ministry explained that the Dutch Gas Act only allows for a different allocation of costs if a request has been filed so that anyone who wishes to disconnect from the gas network does not incur any costs. In the letter, Ministry additionally states that ACM will assess what should happen to any costs that system operators incur if they have not received any request to remove the gas connection but still have to do so from a safety perspective with regard to the gas network.
ACM comes to the conclusion (also on the basis of recommendations from the Dutch State Supervision of Mines) that these costs are part of the general management responsibility, and can therefore be incorporated into the transport tariffs.
ACM expects this to be a temporary measure. The Ministry has indicated that it wishes to amend the regulation on the removal of gas connections in the new Energy Act. It is expected that the new Energy Act will explicitly stipulate that system operators can remove gas connections for safety reasons. As of yet, it is not clear how those removal costs will be calculated.
Since the costs for removal of gas connections are distributed among all buyers, this temporary measure will hardly have any consequences for the level of the distribution tariff. This will not have any consequences for consumers that file a request for the removal of their gas connections. Starting 2 March 2021, consumers no longer have to pay for the removal of individual gas connection type G25 or smaller.