National variances in the Natural Gas Sector in Western Europe

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Country differences in the household penetration of natural gas are due to a combination of factors. The most fundamental of these relate to the abundance of indigenous supplies of natural gas, the geographical size of the country, eh extent of the piped network, and the length of time for which natural gas has had a share in the national energy market.

Labelling countries according to the status of gas distribution is a difficult procedure, and categories such as ‘mature’ and ‘developing’ require further explanation. In one country gas may have low penetration but for various reasons it may be regarded as a mature market, whereas in another country it may have high penetration but be capable of expansion and so label developing or immature. For example, while the French gas market may be said to be ‘mature’, this is more due to the fact that the natural gas market has existed for a long time in France, rather than that it has expanded to its full potential. Indeed, it is likely that a great deal of development (both in terms of infrastructure, and the use of natural gas in households) will take place in the future. A high level of national reliance on nuclear power generation may go some way towards explaining the lower penetration of natural gas in the French domestic sector.

Similarly in Germany, which accounts for around 20% of the total natural gas consumed by households in the EU, and 16% of domestic consumers in the wider Europe, much distribution network development is likely to take place in the future, as at present only around 46% of households are connected. In the UK and the Netherlands, where the domestic natural gas market has also been established for several decades, because of their natural resources it is at or approaching saturation. In these two countries, the main developments are likely to involve fuel-switching and/or increased demand by individual households, and only a small increase in the proportion of households connected.

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