No qualifications are currently taking place for the AS2-AS4 Theme release (TR AS2-AS4). Activities have been halted so research can be carried out into the connection with the Nexus central hub. This changes nothing for parties that have already switched to AS4. AS2-AS4 communication will function as normal. Parties that have started qualification can still perform testing if desired. Other parties should await further communication about resumption of the theme release.
What is the problem?
The first phase of TR AS2-AS4 involved constructing a hub. This would allow concerned market parties to switch from peer-to-peer communication to communication via a central hub. The hub is compatible with the AS2 protocol and the AS4 protocol for wholesale gas notifications.
Various technical challenges were encountered for the hub in the first phase of the theme release. The selected software package could only offer security level CBC, while the more secure GCM level was needed. To meet this requirement, a so-called Java callout was used to construct a GCM-compatible skin.
Many parties already switched to AS4
During the current phase (phase two of the theme release), all market parties will gradually switch to the required AS4 protocol for wholesale gas notifications. However, this could be challenging because they use a range of local software packages for their communication. Some of these software packages are fully compatible with the central hub. Most market parties with these software packages are already qualified and have switched to AS4.
Not everyone able to connect
Some parties will not be able to make the switch. These market parties have a new version of ENTSO-G, namely version 3.5. However, the hub is only compatible with ENTSO-G version 3.0. That is why a Request for Change (RFC) was submitted during the NEDU General Meeting of Members of 23 January 2019. This RFC features a technical solution for this issue, but there are currently no guarantees about whether it can be implemented.
The Steering Committee Releases NEDU (SR NEDU) and the Steering Committee CMF (Central Market Facilitation) first want to be certain that all technical problems have been resolved before new parties are qualified. Research is needed into the best solution for the problem with ENTSO-G. But the question is, how will the hub deal with potential updates, will it be possible to phase out ENTSO-G version 3.0 in the future (if necessary) and what will be the impact of doing so? In addition, a record will be kept about potential issues that could be encountered when connecting parties that use other software packages.
Restart after research
Both the NEDU and CMF steering committees propose restarting the theme release once research has been completed. For instance, this will make it possible to examine whether the hub is capable of supporting both versions of ENTSO-G. An independent agency will map out the issues and help to select an introduction strategy for AS4.
What the delay means for you
The project objective of phasing out AS2 after 1 July 2019 is not feasible at this moment in time. What does this mean for market parties? Parties that have already switched to AS4 can simply remain on AS4; their software packages are able to connect to the hub without problems. Parties that have already started migration can still perform testing if desired. New parties, that have not even started qualification, should await further communication about the resumption of the theme release.