9 September 2002 – The Dutch government has decided to delay the privatization of the country’s electricity and gas networks until the start of 2004, it was announced Friday.

The Cabinet said it planned to simplify and tighten regulations in the sector while at the same time strengthening supervision. The aim was to ensure both the capacity and the reliability of the networks, they said in a statement.

This is expected to be completed by 2004, by which time the issue of whether power firms are in public or private hands will no longer be relevant, the statement said. Utilities, including Nuon, Essent and Eneco, are currently owned by several local governments, which have expressed interest in selling assets to private investors.

The Dutch Parliament earlier this year opposed the privatization of the regional grids.

The statement said that Friday’s announcement would not affect the previously agreed deal for German RWE’s to acquire a stake in Helmond-based Dutch gas distributor Obragas. Obragas supplies 184 000 customers in the southern Netherlands with 7.3 bn kWh of gas annually.

A pending application for RWE to buy a stake in another south Netherlands firm, Intergas, would be considered under the same rules as applied to the Obragas deal, the statement added.