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Global efforts to develop low-carbon, energy-efficient solutions

Interview with Robert Tudorache, Secretary of State, Ministry of Energy

2018-04-12 13:07:00

Romania takes over the Energy Charter presidency this year. What are Romania′s priorities in this mandate, being the first Member State of the European Union in this position?

Romania is the first EU member state to hold the presidency of the Energy Charter Ministerial Conference (ECC) since the inaugural presidency rotation of this forum in 2014. Romania will continue to promote a global vision of the role the Charter can play in its progress towards a secure, accessible and sustainable energy future. Romania is convinced that the international energy architecture requires precisely the convergent approach offered by the Energy Charter process, with interests and rules based on the contribution of all stakeholders and a common understanding and observance of laws.
We expect the year 2018 to see significant progress in global efforts to develop low-carbon, energy-efficient, and cost-effective solutions; in order to achieve these objectives, both public and private efforts need to be cost-effective.

Consequently, the priority themes to be addressed during the Romanian Presidency at the Energy Charter Ministerial Conference are:

Encouraging energy efficiency solutions - through the exchange of best practices and possible incentives - as active tools to improve access to energy
Promoting investment and developing cooperation to attract smart technologies for bridging the technology gap between countries and regions by focusing on improving production and transport networks
Improving the security and reliability of cross-border energy flows as a critical issue of energy security
At the heart of implementing new energy and climate policies, we must put the consumer, who in turn must benefit from economic growth and the expansion of new technologies in the energy sector. We perceive the Energy Charter as an appropriate platform for discussing investment, investor, trade and transit issues, based on a modernization process in conjunction with the dynamic transformation of the energy sector.

What energy efficiency solutions do you propose to facilitate access to energy?

Energy efficiency measures, which are strongly disseminated to energy consumers, are key elements in lowering energy bills.

Energy efficiency measures have a critical role to play in ensuring that the objectives set out in the Energy Climate Change Package are achieved at the lowest cost, contributing to a large extent to the objectives of sustainability and competitiveness in the European Union.
Improving energy efficiency is one of the priority elements of Romania′s energy strategy, given its major contribution to achieving consumer safety, ensuring sustainable development and competitiveness, saving energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Similarly, at the level of the Energy Charter, energy efficiency is regarded as a subject of great interest, an independent source of energy that, together with the promotion of renewable energy sources, can contribute to job creation, increased economic competitiveness and the development of the investment environment.

In this context, the Energy Ministry aims this year to organize, under the aegis of the Energy Charter, a conference that will focus on mobilizing energy efficiency to fight energy poverty and access to energy for all. Starting from the principle that the cheapest energy is the one not consumed, the emphasis will be on sharing good practice, up-to-date energy efficiency legislation, energy efficiency improvement measures in the buildings sector, barriers to and opportunities for measuring energy efficiency, and possible incentives to improve energy efficiency - as active tools to tackle energy poverty and to stimulate access to energy.

How will you promote investment in smart technologies?

Under new economic conditions imposed by the transition to a new energy system model, based on increasing the share of renewable energy sources, reducing primary energy consumption (by increasing energy efficiency), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Romania must undertake new development directions in the energy sector - innovation and research being key areas in this respect. According to the Energy Strategy of Romania until 2030, such openings can bring direct benefits to consumers and increase Romania′s attractiveness for investments in smart technologies.

Smart grids are an area where Romania can progress quickly due to its IT capabilities. Also, Romania can revive its indigenous industry by producing batteries for storing electricity, heat pumps, materials to increase energy efficiency of buildings, intelligent grid management and power consumption technologies, etc. Intelligent networks allow real-time control and two-way communication with consumers, with instant optimization of energy production and consumption. Interaction between electricity, internet and communication networks will increase, facilitating gains in energy efficiency and flexibility. These are top areas where research and innovation in Romania should be involved in order to boost these technological developments.

Distributed electricity generation (energy generated or stored in various types of low-capacity systems) can reduce losses in electrical networks and increase security of supply. In the long run, the energy consumer will turn into a prosumer, which will have an impact on network architecture, especially when it has power storage capacity to limit interaction with the network.

Thus, the number of households without access to energy networks will fall, including by adopting autonomous (off-grid) solutions that will become more economically affordable.
Another aspect that our country must consider is the promotion of electric and hybrid cars. By 2030 they will be a common presence in traffic, helping to reduce exhaust emissions. An important role for the state will be to support the development of the battery charging infrastructure for these vehicles as well as the electric and hybrid vehicle market from the early stages of development.
Romania has the potential for industrial development in the production of electric cars, batteries and electrical components, both through an active policy of attracting investments - Romania being well placed - and through existing producers, to promote electromobility.

We also appreciate the long-term promotion of the construction of smart buildings at national level, including the setting of ambitious energy efficiency standards for new buildings.
Achieving decarbonisation targets on the 2050s horizon will require large investments in energy efficiency of buildings, and those countries that will be able to attract investment in the energy efficiency industry will benefit from those with a less energy efficient building stock, importers of these technologies.

Romania can be among the winners in this field through sustainable building materials and equipment that can be produced in-country for both the domestic and international markets.
In fact, to discuss all these aspects of smart energy technologies that we have outlined earlier, we intend to organize a seminar, under the auspices of the Energy Charter, to be attended by representatives of governments, regulatory agencies, competent organizations dealing with smart technology policies, as well as producers and consumers of smart energy technology.

What are your plans for improving the production and transport networks?

In autumn of last year, an interinstitutional commission, consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Authority (ANRE), was set up in a Memorandum approved by the Government Meeting to assess the situation of the electricity grids in Romania and investments in these networks. The work of the Commission, which will take place over a year, will be finalized with a report to be submitted to the Government, containing identified issues and recommendations that could lead to the correction of non-conformities as well as - where needed - proposals for modification / completing the applicable legal framework.

There are certain areas where our energy infrastructure is outdated, which is why we need urgent investment. For example, a number of transport, distribution, and fossil fuel plants, using outdated technology that does not meet environmental requirements. Massive investment is needed in these areas, and in the face of high price volatility, attracting investors to infrastructure can be a very challenging task.

For this reason, maintaining a friendly climate for investors, in terms of regulation and fiscal stability, will encourage companies with a significant energy-related contribution to focus on investments in Romania, investments that will help to achieve a higher degree of security of energy supply.
We want such issues to be addressed with partners from other countries during our Presidency at the Energy Charter Ministerial Conference, so that the conclusions of such discussions are of benefit not only to our country but also to other countries in the development process, members of the Energy Charter in similar situations.

How will Romania deal with the issue of security of cross-border energy flows?

Considering the upward trend of the European Union′s dependence on natural gas imports, against the backdrop of the steady increase in demand and the fall in domestic production, securing the security of gas supply is a priority. From this perspective, the increase in energy security can be ensured, first of all, by diversifying energy resources and energy supply routes, but also by facilitating energy transit and the reliability of cross-border energy flows. The gas flow from the Russian Federation to Europe has also experienced bad times, such as the 2006 and 2009 crises, when many European countries have suffered. It has become obvious that Europe is still vulnerable to major gas disruption and needs a clearer, collective and concerted policy on energy security.

In order to achieve the objective of ensuring energy security, it is essential to provide more sources of gas supply, in which priority must be given to diversifying the hydrocarbon transport routes and completing the hydrocarbon interconnections with neighbouring states.

Developing cross-border energy infrastructure and facilitating energy transit requires cooperation between neighbouring Member States. There are still gaps in the cross-border energy transport infrastructure between Member States. The measures could take into account the identification of cross-border energy infrastructures that are not used to their maximum potential to support the internal energy market either because they are blocked by long-term bilateral contracts that do not allow third parties access to the network or because of the lack of capacity in their technical capabilities, such as reversed gas flows.

The main topics to be addressed during the Romanian Energy Charter Presidency are to encourage energy efficiency solutions to improve access to energy, promote investment and develop cooperation to attract smart technologies to improve production and transport networks and improve security and reliability of cross-border energy flows as the critical issue of energy security. Romania will support the efforts of the Energy Charter Secretariat to expand and deepen its activities on facilitating energy transit, trade and investment, dispute resolution, energy efficiency, energy security and regional cooperation.

Romania identifies as a priority the minimizing of vulnerabilities and the fight against risks in terms of security of energy supply in the current geopolitical context. In this respect, Romania considers that plans for the development of energy infrastructure should also consider future connections with other states, contracting parties to the Energy Charter Treaty.

What projects are being prepared to facilitate energy transit?

In Romania, through the National Development Plan of the National Gas Transport System for the period 2017-2026, Transgaz aims at implementing the necessary developments to ensure security of the gas supply, increasing the interconnection of the national gas transmission network to the European network, ensuring the bi-directional flow of gas, increasing the flexibility of the national gas transmission network, liberalizing the natural gas market and the creation of an integrated natural gas market within the European Union. If I were to recall some of the major projects under consideration, I would refer to:
Development on the territory of Romania of the National Gas Transmission System on the Corridor encompassing Bulgaria - Romania - Hungary - Austria

The development on the Romanian territory of the Southern Transport Corridor for moving the natural gas from the Black Sea shore
Interconnection of the national gas transmission system with the international natural gas pipeline T1 and reverse flow Isaccea
Developments of the NTS in the North-East of Romania in order to improve the natural gas supply of the area as well as to ensure the transport capacities to / from the Republic of Moldova
Interconnection of the national gas transmission system with the similar natural gas transmission system in Serbia

I will focus on one of the most important gas infrastructure projects, namely the BRUA project, the implementation of which will also ensure the bidirectionality and maximum capacity of Romania′s interconnectors with Bulgaria and Hungary, as well as the transport of gas flows from various sources of supply, in the territory of Romania to Central Europe. At the last meeting of the Consultative Council of the Southern Gas Corridor that took place in Baku on February 15th where Romania participated for the first time, the Romanian side proposed to include in the plans for expansion of the Southern Corridor the infrastructure offered by the project BRUA, together with the interconnector between Romania and Bulgaria, for the transport of natural gas from the Southern Corridor, in the territory of Romania, to Central Europe. It is an important step that will further strengthen the principle of diversifying sources and supply routes, facilitate gas flow in the region and strengthen the important role of these energy cooperation initiatives in increasing energy security in Europe.

What are Romania's goals under this mandate of the Energy Charter Presidency?

Romania will promote, during its Presidency at the Ministerial Charter of Energy Charter, structured and strategic discussions within the Energy Charter format to improve the adequacy of the Charter′s objectives in relation to unprecedented energy market changes and technological advancements. In other words, we will support a real process of modernizing the Energy Charter. The Energy Charter Treaty has become an important instrument that can provide a solid legal basis for ensuring and promoting stable and sustained investments in the energy sector, which is why a modernization process is necessary to contribute to a wider and more coherent understanding of challenges to global energy security, as they are today.

Taking over the Presidency of the 29th Energy Charter Ministerial Conference is both a challenge and an opportunity for us, as Romania is willing to contribute to the global energy dialogue and to strengthen international energy cooperation. In this regard, we will maintain a close relationship with the Energy Charter Secretariat, which has made efforts to transform the Charter into an important instrument for securing and promoting sustainable and sustainable investment in the energy sector. The Energy Charter Secretariat (ECS) is today a suitable platform for developing forms of cooperation and tools accessible to all contracting parties, contributing to extending the geographical coverage of the Charter and strengthening its capacity to resolve energy investment litigation.

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