Alex Barnes

Visiting Research Fellow

Alex Barnes is an independent consultant specialising in energy market design and regulation. He has nearly thirty years’ experience in the oil and gas sector, most of it spent in the liberalisation of gas and electricity markets. He has worked for a range of companies including Total, BG Group and Gazprom, helping them manage the impacts of energy liberalisation, both exploiting new opportunities and defending existing positions. At BG Group he led the team which secured an exemption from third part access regulation for the Dragon LNG terminal, enabling investment to go proceed. He established the Regulatory Affairs function for Gazprom Marketing & Trading in 2009, supporting its rapid expansion in gas and power trading in Europe, and also advised Gazprom on gas market liberalisation related issues. He has helped draft gas market rules as an industry representative on expert panels for the European Network of Transmission Operators for gas (ENTSOG) and the European energy market regulator ACER. He has also represented the European Federation of Energy Traders at the Madrid Forum organised by the EU Commission. Recent work has focussed on decarbonisation of the European gas market, carbon pricing and regulation of future hydrogen markets. He has a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, and an MBA from Henley Management College.

Contact

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                    [post_content] => In the wake of the gas crisis, in March 2022 the European Council called on the Council and the Commission to examine how ‘an aggregator model / single buyer’ could help reduce gas prices. The Council also said that Member States and the Commission would ‘work together on voluntary common purchase of gas, LNG and hydrogen, making optimal use of the collective political and market weight of the European Union and its Member States to dampen prices in negotiations.’  The latter initiative led to the setting up of the EU Energy Platform in April 2022. Further price rises in August 2022 led to the adoption of ‘Council Regulation (EU) 2022/2576 enhancing solidarity through better coordination of gas purchases, reliable price benchmarks and exchanges of gas across borders setting up a demand aggregation mechanism’ in December 2022.

The Regulation sets up temporary rules to set up a service to enable demand aggregation and joint purchasing of gas. It enables the establishment of a “Temporary service contract” with a service provider to organise demand aggregation and joint purchasing. The service provider aggregates demand of natural gas companies in the EU and seek offers from gas suppliers or producers to match the aggregated demand. All EU gas companies or companies which use gas can participate in the demand aggregation and joint purchasing. Companies which participate in the demand aggregation organised by the service provider may jointly purchase gas but must comply with EU competition law. The regulation itself is only valid for one year although the Commission can propose to extend it based on a review it must conduct by 1st October 2023.

It is too early to tell if joint purchasing of gas has been a success due to a lack of information on any gas contacted following matching on the platform. Therefore, it is not possible to tell if buyers have achieved lower prices than they would have done using existing market mechanisms. AggregateEU has succeeded in its limited aim of matching buyers and sellers, and a significant number of market participants have signed up. It is difficult to see how AggregateEU can add much value as the current market framework already enables effective demand aggregation and allows companies which are based in landlocked countries or have limited experience of LNG contracting to access LNG supplies to replace Russian gas flows. Only 20% of the supply matched in the first tender round relates to LNG. This is less than current LNG’s current market share of supply to the EU.

As currently constructed AggregateEU can only have limited impact on the workings of the gas market as it is only a matching service. There is no obligation for joint purchasing of gas if matching occurs on the platform. It is also only a temporary measure (so far) to address the current gas crisis. It uses the existing gas market architecture and does not give companies any exemption from competition rules, so works within the existing regulatory and market framework. AggregateEU can therefore be seen as complementary to the other means of demand aggregation and matching such as the existing traded markets, even if it is not immediately clear what added benefits it brings.

However, there are signs that some in the Commission wish to make the mechanism permanent and extend it. The risk for the natural gas market is that a ‘beefed up’ mechanism would be detrimental, for example by harming competition between suppliers within the EU. The current liberalised market has worked well - benefitting from competition between LNG and pipeline gas prior to the gas crises, and after the crises quickly attracting LNG supply to replace Russian gas and reducing demand in response to price signals to ensure the market balanced physically. Whilst the added value of the AggregateEU platform is not clear, it has the merit that it is limited in scope and duration and therefore unable to materially harm the internal gas market. This would no longer be the case if, for example, the EU decided to make it more than a matching platform for natural gas, or to require some form of mandatory single buyer. The Commission would need more substantial justification for any upgraded mechanism than that provided for the current arrangements, which are open to question.

 
                    [post_title] => EU Joint Purchasing of Gas – an assessment
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                    [post_content] => The European Commission has identified hydrogen as a key part of its decarbonisation strategy. The 2022 REPowerEU Strategy set a target of 20MT consumption of renewable hydrogen by 2030. The Commission is keen to promote a single European market in hydrogen, similar to the current one for natural gas. To this end it has published proposals on the regulation of  future European hydrogen infrastructure (pipelines, storage facilities and import terminals). The European Council (representing Member States) and the European Parliament are finalising their amendments to the Commission proposals, prior to ’trilogue’ negotiations and final agreement later this year. The paper 'The EU Hydrogen and Gas Decarbonisation Package: help or hindrance for the development of a European hydrogen market?’ examines the European Commission proposals and their suitability for a developing  hydrogen market.
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                    [post_content] => The European gas crisis has led to pressure from several EU Member States to put in place wholesale price caps. In October and November 2022, the EU Commission proposed a series of measures including: a wholesale gas price cap; joint purchasing of gas; calculation of a European LNG price benchmark by the European energy regulator, ACER; and default rules for the collective allocation of gas between Member States in the event of an emergency. The paper assesses the various proposals and likely impact on European gas markets.

The price cap proposals are set to cap the TTF front month price (M+1) at €275/MWh so long as there is a differential between the TTF spot price and European LNG prices of at least €58/MWh, and if the TTF price were to be above that level for the preceding 10 days. Wholesale price caps will make it more difficult to balance supply and demand until more LNG supply becomes available; will likely benefit richer households more than poor ones; will benefit energy inefficient companies more than efficient ones; may reduce competition within wholesale gas markets making it likely prices will remain higher for longer; and could jeopardise security of supply if less gas flows to the EU, or by harming intra-EU gas flows. Wholesale price caps also increase the likelihood of, and need for, administrative allocation of gas, that is, rationing.

The time spent on discussing gas price caps has a real opportunity cost for European energy markets. The proposals do nothing to solve the fundamental problem underlying price increases. Time would be better spent on measures which reduce gas demand or supporting those who suffer most from high gas prices. These include targeted subsidies to vulnerable households and specific industrial sectors, or investments in energy efficiency, energy storage and alternative energy sources.
                    [post_title] => EU Commission proposal for joint gas purchasing, price caps and collective allocation of gas: an assessment
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                    [post_content] => Carbon pricing is seen as an essential tool of decarbonisation, and hence of meeting net zero emissions targets by 2050. Both the EU 27 and the UK have committed to reaching net zero by 2050, and include carbon pricing as part of their strategy. The paper provides an overview of the current status of carbon pricing in the EU 27 + UK, and coming policy developments such as the introduction of a UK Emissions Trading System (ETS), now that the UK has left the EU, reform of the EU ETS, and the EU’s proposal for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, more colloquially known as a carbon border tax. The literature on carbon pricing is vast, and many of the issues, such as design of carbon pricing mechanisms, are complex. It would not be possible to cover all the issues in depth in a short paper; rather the aim is to review the recent developments of carbon pricing in a European context and to provide a platform for further, more detailed research on key issues identified in the conclusions of the paper.

The paper is structured as follows. Section II gives a brief overview of what is meant by carbon pricing. Section III looks at current carbon pricing in the EU 27 including the EU Emissions Trading System and other carbon pricing mechanisms. Section IV covers carbon pricing in the UK, including the new UK Emissions Trading System. Section V looks at future opportunities and challenges for European carbon pricing. Section VI considers future topics for research, and the implications for natural gas in Europe.
                    [post_title] => The Challenges and Prospects for Carbon Pricing in Europe
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                    [post_content] => This Insight provides an overview of the recent EU Commission Hydrogen Strategy, Energy System Integration Strategy and Industrial Strategy, focusing on regulatory issues impacting hydrogen. It looks at the proposed classification and preferences for different sources of hydrogen, financial and regulatory support for development of hydrogen supply, demand, and infrastructure, as well as potential regulation of hydrogen markets. Whilst the Hydrogen Strategy underlines the need for hydrogen to decarbonise the economy, the Insight concludes that the EU has shown a clear preference for hydrogen based on renewable electricity at the expense of low carbon hydrogen from natural gas, even though it recognises the need for low carbon hydrogen. In addition, further detail is required on the support mechanisms and regulatory framework if development of new hydrogen value chain is to succeed. Lastly there is little sign that the Commission recognises the change in regulatory approach from the current natural gas framework which will be needed because of the different challenges facing the development of a hydrogen market.

[post_title] => EU Hydrogen Vision: regulatory opportunities and challenges [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => eu-hydrogen-vision-regulatory-opportunities-and-challenges [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-08-23 14:31:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-08-23 13:31:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=40973 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 38333 [post_author] => 111 [post_date] => 2020-06-05 09:44:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-06-05 08:44:52 [post_content] => This Energy Insight examines the current regulatory framework and challenges facing the natural gas industry (producers, transporters, suppliers and consumers) during the transition to a zero-carbon economy.  The EU has declared its intention to be climate neutral by 2050, which means that the current level of natural gas usage will no longer be possible. However natural gas is a crucial component of energy supply, representing 24 per cent of primary energy supply for the EU27+UK and 36 per cent of residential energy consumption. In some countries the use of natural gas is much higher – around 40 per cent of primary energy supply in Netherlands, UK and Italy. The current framework impacting gas addresses two different market failures – natural monopolies for gas transportation, and the externalities of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The framework will not deliver decarbonisation of gas as it does not stimulate either supply or demand for alternatives such as hydrogen, nor create the conditions to enable gas networks to transition to a decarbonised future. Policy makers need to prioritise their objectives to take account of the trade-offs involved in designing a new framework. Exclusion of certain low carbon technologies risks driving away investors, and reduces the chances of targets being met, whilst “picking winners” involves risks because of the many uncertainties involved such as future costs and time required to build new value chains. [post_title] => Can the current EU regulatory framework deliver decarbonisation of gas? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => can-the-current-eu-regulatory-framework-deliver-decarbonisation-of-gas [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-06-05 09:52:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-06-05 08:52:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=38333 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 6 [current_post] => -1 [before_loop] => 1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 46561 [post_author] => 974 [post_date] => 2023-09-20 11:24:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-09-20 10:24:34 [post_content] => In the wake of the gas crisis, in March 2022 the European Council called on the Council and the Commission to examine how ‘an aggregator model / single buyer’ could help reduce gas prices. The Council also said that Member States and the Commission would ‘work together on voluntary common purchase of gas, LNG and hydrogen, making optimal use of the collective political and market weight of the European Union and its Member States to dampen prices in negotiations.’  The latter initiative led to the setting up of the EU Energy Platform in April 2022. Further price rises in August 2022 led to the adoption of ‘Council Regulation (EU) 2022/2576 enhancing solidarity through better coordination of gas purchases, reliable price benchmarks and exchanges of gas across borders setting up a demand aggregation mechanism’ in December 2022. The Regulation sets up temporary rules to set up a service to enable demand aggregation and joint purchasing of gas. It enables the establishment of a “Temporary service contract” with a service provider to organise demand aggregation and joint purchasing. The service provider aggregates demand of natural gas companies in the EU and seek offers from gas suppliers or producers to match the aggregated demand. All EU gas companies or companies which use gas can participate in the demand aggregation and joint purchasing. Companies which participate in the demand aggregation organised by the service provider may jointly purchase gas but must comply with EU competition law. The regulation itself is only valid for one year although the Commission can propose to extend it based on a review it must conduct by 1st October 2023. It is too early to tell if joint purchasing of gas has been a success due to a lack of information on any gas contacted following matching on the platform. Therefore, it is not possible to tell if buyers have achieved lower prices than they would have done using existing market mechanisms. AggregateEU has succeeded in its limited aim of matching buyers and sellers, and a significant number of market participants have signed up. It is difficult to see how AggregateEU can add much value as the current market framework already enables effective demand aggregation and allows companies which are based in landlocked countries or have limited experience of LNG contracting to access LNG supplies to replace Russian gas flows. Only 20% of the supply matched in the first tender round relates to LNG. This is less than current LNG’s current market share of supply to the EU. As currently constructed AggregateEU can only have limited impact on the workings of the gas market as it is only a matching service. There is no obligation for joint purchasing of gas if matching occurs on the platform. It is also only a temporary measure (so far) to address the current gas crisis. It uses the existing gas market architecture and does not give companies any exemption from competition rules, so works within the existing regulatory and market framework. AggregateEU can therefore be seen as complementary to the other means of demand aggregation and matching such as the existing traded markets, even if it is not immediately clear what added benefits it brings. However, there are signs that some in the Commission wish to make the mechanism permanent and extend it. The risk for the natural gas market is that a ‘beefed up’ mechanism would be detrimental, for example by harming competition between suppliers within the EU. The current liberalised market has worked well - benefitting from competition between LNG and pipeline gas prior to the gas crises, and after the crises quickly attracting LNG supply to replace Russian gas and reducing demand in response to price signals to ensure the market balanced physically. Whilst the added value of the AggregateEU platform is not clear, it has the merit that it is limited in scope and duration and therefore unable to materially harm the internal gas market. This would no longer be the case if, for example, the EU decided to make it more than a matching platform for natural gas, or to require some form of mandatory single buyer. The Commission would need more substantial justification for any upgraded mechanism than that provided for the current arrangements, which are open to question.   [post_title] => EU Joint Purchasing of Gas – an assessment [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => eu-joint-purchasing-of-gas-an-assessment [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-09-20 11:24:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-09-20 10:24:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.oxfordenergy.org/?post_type=publications&p=46561 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => publications [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 6 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => 1 [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 010366c21249213a9942f93fcea7afaf [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [allow_query_attachment_by_filename:protected] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

Latest Publications by Alex Barnes

Ongoing research by Alex Barnes