Information Gathering Process for Policy Development

Overview

June 2013

Gas Industry Co has published its 'Protocol for Information Gathering for Policy Development' (Protocol). The Protocol was developed after Gas Industry Co consulted in October 2011 with the industry regarding the industry body's ability to access relevant information for policy development.

Submissions were considered and the Company determined that regulations for information gathering were not appropriate at this time and has rather developed a formal and transparent voluntary protocol for requesting information from industry participants.

Protocol for Information Gathering for Policy Development

Background

The Statement of Proposal has emerged from:

  • a request by the Minister to establish a process for investigating disputes over access to private pipelines;
  • work on gas transmission capacity/access, insolvent gas retailers, gas quality, transmission interconnection, and wholesale gas trading, where difficulties have been experienced or anticipated by Gas Industry Co in accessing certain information, or accessing it in timely fashion; and
  • assessment of current and likely future issues where access to information could affect Gas Industry Co's ability to fulfil its function and goals.

The objective of any solution proposed in the Statement of Proposal (including the objective of any resulting regulations) is to develop a process or processes that will empower Gas Industry Co to ensure the supply of certain information from industry participants to settle particular issues in the gas industry to aid in the timely development of market solutions.

Any information gathering process would form part of Gas Industry Co's overall policy development process, which has been designed to meet the consultation and assessment requirements for recommending gas governance regulations under sections 43L and 43N of the Gas Act. Gas Industry Co will continue to engage with the industry on policy issues and, in the first instance, seek voluntary information disclosure where possible. Any regulations setting out an information gathering process for settling particular issues would accordingly operate as a backstop or 'last resort' for information gathering

Rationale and Issues

The industry body must each year develop a Strategic Plan setting out the current issues affecting the gas industry and how it intends to address them over the next 1-3 years so as to achieve the outcomes and objectives of the Gas Act and GPS. Gas Industry Co has also developed a process for investigating and addressing issues included in the Strategic Plan, which has been designed to meet the consultation and assessment requirements for recommending gas governance regulations under sections 43L and 43N of the Gas Act. As part of that process, it is sometimes necessary to request information from industry participants to aid in the analysis and assessment of an issue. The Statement of Proposal has emerged from:

  • a request by the Minister to establish a process for investigating disputes over access to private pipelines;
  • work on gas transmission capacity/access, insolvent gas retailers, gas quality, transmission interconnection, and wholesale gas trading, where difficulties have been experienced or anticipated by Gas Industry Co in accessing certain information, or accessing it in timely fashion; and
  • an assessment of current and likely future issues where access to information could affect Gas Industry Co's ability to fulfil its function and goals.

Further details of the six specific issues referred to above, which are the subject of the proposal, are set out in section 1 below.

The availability of information is fundamental to the development and operation of efficient and competitive gas markets, especially those based on private ownership and with features such as monopolies and constraints. Better information for all participants will lead to a clearer understanding of market operations, more efficient decision making, and improved development of voluntary and regulatory solutions.

Objective

The objective of any solution (including the objective of any resulting regulations) is to develop a process that will empower Gas Industry Co to ensure the supply of certain information from industry participants to settle particular issues in the gas industry to aid in the timely development of market solutions.

Options

The Act requires the industry body to identify all reasonably practicable options for achieving the objective of any potential or proposed regulation. This may include both voluntary and regulated options, and effective information gathering arrangements may assist with either. The Company has identified five options for addressing the issue of ensuring efficient and effective information gathering as part of a policy development process. These are discussed in sections 2 and 3 of this paper, and in summary are:

  • maintain the status quo;
  • rely on the dissemination of information gathered by other agencies such as the Commerce Commission and the Ministry of Economic Development (MED);
  • establish an industry agreed protocol on the identification of, request for, and handling of information as part of Gas Industry Co's policy development process to address market failures;
  • develop specific rules or regulations on a case-by-case basis to enable the settling of a particular issue within the gas industry each time that Gas Industry Co is unable to obtain the information necessary to progress policy development on that issue; or
  • develop a regulatory framework that would act as a last resort means of providing Gas Industry Co with access to particular information to enable the settling of identified issues within the gas industry. The framework would be triggered only when other means of information gathering have not succeeded in obtaining the necessary information.

Recommendation

Following the assessment set out in the Statement of Proposal, including a cost/benefit analysis and assessment against the MED's Code of Good Regulatory Practice, Gas Industry Co recommended the final option above.

Particular regard has been had to:

  • the purposes for which regulations can be made under section 43G(2)(l) of the Gas Act;
  • the need to carefully justify any new information-gathering power; and
  • imposing the least compliance burden possible for the information gathering process: and
  • addressing potential concerns with respect to managing the scope of information requests and commercially sensitive information.

The information requested would need to:

  • relate to a matter identified in the regulations;
  • contain specific details as to the information being sought; and
  • only be made once other options are exhausted.

The information gathering process included in the proposed regulations would form part of Gas Industry Co's overall policy development process, which has been designed to meet the consultation and assessment requirements for recommending gas governance regulations under sections 43L and 43N of the Gas Act. Gas Industry Co will continue to engage with the industry on policy issues and, in the first instance, seek voluntary information disclosure where possible. Any regulations setting out an information gathering process for settling particular issues would accordingly operate as a backstop or 'last resort' for information gathering.

Next steps

Gas Industry Co invited submissions from industry participants on the Statement of Proposal, which were received by 17 February 2012. The Submissions Analysis can be viewed here.

After consideration of submissions, Gas Industry Co believes that it should now develop a more formalised and transparent protocol for requesting information from industry participants. This will be developed and communicated to the industry. Gas Industry Co has already begun formalising its protocol - a pilot request form was recently used when asking for information from participants with respect to data held by the Allocation Agent.

Work will continue on drafting a regulatory framework that would incorporate the above protocol. It is possible, however, that the successful operation of the formalised request process could limit or remove the need for regulation.

Consultation

Previously Consulted On

Consultation on Information Gathering Process for Policy Development

Date Published: 22 December 2011

Submissions Analysis - 4 May 2012

Eight submissions were received; half were generally supportive of the proposal and half were opposed to the preferred option of regulation.

After consideration of submissions, Gas Industry Co believes that it should now develop a more formalised and transparent protocol for requesting information from industry participants. This will be developed and communicated to the industry. Gas Industry Co has already begun formalising its protocol - a pilot request form was recently used when asking for information from participants with respect to data held by the Allocation Agent.

Work will continue on drafting a regulatory framework that would incorporate the above protocol. It is possible, however, that the successful operation of the formalised request process could limit or remove the need for regulation.

The work on regulation drafting will be discussed with industry participants, with a workshop to be scheduled at a time yet to be confirmed.

The full document can be viewed here.

Consultation on Information Gathering Process for Policy Development

To assist industry participants with submissions and to provide a prior indication of matters that will require consideration by Gas Industry Co, an industry workshop was held at Gas Industry Co's office in Wellington on Thursday 2nd February 2012.

To view the wokshop presentation slides click here.

Gas Industry Co invited submissions on this Statement of Proposal and any answers to the specific questions contained in Appendix A. The closing date for submissions on the Statement of Proposal was Friday 17 Feb 2012 at 5.00pm.

Possible extended list of issues

The Information Gathering Statement of Proposal contains a list of six issues that Gas Industry Co suggests are included in any information gathering regulations that might be recommended. Gas Industry Co limited the list of issues to those that it considers are the most current and significant to be addressed in the short to medium term. The list focuses on priority elements of the Company's strategic work programme.

Gas Industry Co intends to minimise the expected compliance burden on industry by limiting the scope of the proposed regulations. However, at the Information Gathering workshop held on 2 February 2011, some industry participants indicated that it would be more efficient to establish a wider list of issues so as to avoid Gas Industry Co re-consulting on this matter every time it needed to address a new issue. There was interest in seeing a longer list of issues that could be included in any information gathering regulations (should a regulatory solution be selected by Gas Industry Co). A possible extended list of issues can be found below.

Submissions received