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    Orlen’s Gas Market Dominance: New Government Concerns, Obajtek Cries Betrayal

    The concentration of the gas market in Poland has sparked a heated debate, with significant figures voicing concerns over Orlen’s substantial market share. Maciej Bando, the government’s plenipotentiary for strategic energy infrastructure, criticized the current situation where Orlen’s entities hold nearly 91% of the gas sales market. “Such a high level of concentration would be dangerous in any market,” Bando told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

    Bando pointed out that in countries like Italy, Spain, and Norway, large energy companies such as Eni, Repsol, and Equinor are strengthened rather than dismantled. He contrasted this with the situation in Poland, where there are calls to reduce Orlen’s dominance.

    Annual reports from the President of the Energy Regulatory Office (URE) show a steady increase in the market share of Orlen’s entities, which reached 90.68% in 2023, up 1.68 percentage points from 2022. The Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) for the Polish high-methane gas market in 2023 was 9528 by the number of consumers and 7525 by gas volume sold, indicating very high market concentration.

    Bando suggested steps towards market liberalization, starting with Gaz-System’s acquisition of the gas storage operator Gas Storage Poland from Orlen. He also advocated for transferring the ownership of the gas storage facilities to Gaz-System to ensure transparency and fair access.

    Further liberalization efforts include restructuring Polska Spółka Gazownictwa (PSG), the main gas distribution system operator, to achieve maximum unbundling and equip it with necessary assets. Bando emphasized the need for clear separation of distribution, transmission, sales, and production functions to enhance market transparency and competition.

    In response, former Orlen CEO and current MEP Daniel Obajtek accused the government of betraying Polish state interests. He argued that the government’s actions weaken Poland’s economic position, making it easier for international players to dominate. “No other country breaks up its energy giants; instead, they strengthen them,” Obajtek stated.

    Obajtek also questioned how Poland would manage to freeze gas prices as it did in 2023 and the first half of 2024 without Orlen’s profits benefiting the Polish economy. He labeled the government’s strategy as a betrayal of Polish national interests.

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