Households and businesses switching over to natural gas have pushed annual consumption growth rates in the sector to almost 50 percent, despite the lack of government incentives being offered on the energy source, a report said yesterday. The report, put together by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), said an expanding natural gas pipeline network and soaring petrol prices are among the key reasons behind expansion rates. «There was an increase in natural gas penetration in the country’s energy sector between 1995-2006,» the report said. «Consumption of natural gas grew at an average annual rate of 46 percent, absorbing market share from petrol and coal products.» In 2007, there were 34,876 new gas connections to businesses and households, increasing 12 percent from the previous year. About 20,000 connections were in Thessaloniki’s household sector. However, government policy is holding back growth in the environmentally friendly power source, even though the country has been hooking up with international gas networks, such as the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline. The lack of state financial incentives and low level of information being offered to consumers act as obstacles to further expansion, the report added.