Liberalisation of the Austrian natural gas market in 2002 led to the introduction of a system that organises market players in balance groups. A balance group brings together wholesalers, retailers and consumers in a virtual group within which natural gas supply and demand are balanced.
Every system user that is connected to the Austrian gas grid and is supplied from it or feeds gas into it must belong to a balance group or form one of their own. Suppliers and some large consumers have direct contractual relationships with their balance responsible parties and are thus referred to as “direct” balance group members, while most consumers are “indirect” members of their suppliers’ balance groups, by dint of their supply contracts.
Balance responsible parties are responsible for managing and representing their balance group. Under the Gaswirtschaftsgesetz (Natural Gas Act), E-Control is responsible for licensing balance responsible parties and approving their general terms and conditions.