Thursday , February 22 2024

Interview with the Minister of Energy of the Republic of Moldova

 

 

 

Victor Parlicov,
Minister of Energy
of the Republic of Moldova

 

 

“Greece is playing a crucial role in assisting the Republic of Moldova and the countries of the region to strengthen their energy resilience.”

 

 

 

On January 19th-20th, Victor Parlicov, Minister of Energy of the Republic of Moldova participated in the ministerial meeting of the Central and South-Eastern European Connectivity (CESEC). Within the margins of this reunion, Moldova, Ukraine and Slovakia became part of the Vertical Gas Corridor joining Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary who established this initiative in 2016.

 

Minster Parlikov with his Greek counterpart Theodoros Skylakakis, EU Energy Commisioner Kadri Simson, Ambassador Andrei Popov and Director-General of DG Energy Ditte Juul Jorgensen.
with Energy Deputy Minister Alexandra Sdoukou.

On this occasion, Minister Parlicov spoke to ‘Greek Diplomatic Life’ about the energy challenges faced by the Republic of Moldova, the advancement of the energy cooperation among the countries of the region and the valuable role of Greece as an energy hub that helps Moldova and other countries in the region to strengthen their energy resilience.

 

VP: First of all, I would like to mention that this is my third visit to Greece in less than a year, making Greece the second top destination of my working visits, after neighbouring Romania, with which Moldova has a multidimensional and privileged partnership.

This time, upon the invitation of the Greek Minister of the Environment and Energy, Theodoros Skylakakis, and EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, together with the Energy Ministers from Central and South-Eastern European countries, we met in Athens to take stock of the key issues and achievements in promoting energy connectivity in the CESEC region since the last ministerial meeting in 2021. The main focus of our discussions was on various cooperation projects and exchange of views on how our countries can leverage their energy transitions and their energy strategies with better interconnectivity between them.

This subject is of particular relevance in light of the impact of the war in Ukraine and the need to adjust to the drastically changed situation since the last meeting of CESEC that took place in 2021. The enhanced cooperation between our countries helps us a great deal to reduce the negative impact caused by the disruption of Russian gas supplies. And it is more than symbolic that our meeting took place in Athens, given the crucial role that has been played by Greece in assisting the countries of the region, including Moldova, in quickly substituting Russian gas with reliable supplies from alternative sources.

GDL: Can you please share your perspective on the significance of Moldova and Ukraine joining the Vertical Gas Corridor?

VP: The Vertical Gas Corridor initiative was established by Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary back in 2016 in order to develop the necessary infrastructure and step-up regional cooperation to allow for the bidirectional gas flow from Greece via these countries to northern parts of Europe. On the sidelines of the Athens CESEC Ministerial Council, relevant transmission system operators signed a Memorandum by which Moldova, Ukraine and Slovakia officially joined the Vertical Gas Corridor, thus creating new options and opportunities to significantly increase the volumes of the natural gas transported from Greece via the Trans-Balkan pipeline all the way to Moldova and to immense and currently largely underused underground gas storage facilities in Ukraine.

To better understand the significance and the major potential positive impact of this project, one has to keep in mind that while, on the one hand, those approximately 100 billion cubic metres of gas storages capacities existing in EU countries are getting almost completely filled during the winter season, while on the other hand, underground storage capacities of Ukraine of about 30 bcm, located mostly in the western part of the country, are currently heavily underused. In the past, Gazprom was filling these storages during the warm period and then was able to quickly increase the supply of gas to Europe during the peak of demand in winter. This provided Gazprom with a major leverage and an important competitive edge. Today these storages are mostly empty, representing a huge potential not only for Ukraine and Moldova, but also for the neighbouring EU countries.

With Greece continuing to expand its strategic gas infrastructure, including the 5.5 bcm a year LNG floating gas storage terminal in Alexandroupolis that is about to be launched, we now have a realistic possibility to join efforts in order to transport several additional billion cubic metres of natural gas via Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova all the way to the gas storage facilities in Western Ukraine. By doing this, we can cover the increasing demand for gas, smoothen prices and reduce the risk of gas shortages – making this option a clear win-win project, not only from the perspective of our countries’ energy security, but also from the practical, commercial point of view.

 

“Moldova’s ‘Energocom’ state-owned company became the first company that managed to commercially use the ICGB and bring the gas via this route to Moldova in December 2022.

By doing so, we helped to prove the case for the commercial rational and viability of this new gas corridor based on the reverse flow use of the Trans-Balkan pipeline.”

 

GDL: What main challenges is Moldova facing in the area of its energy security and how is your country addressing them?

VP: We were totally dependent on Russian gas imports until 2022 and our problem was that Moldova didn’t have any options on how to counteract it. Not only didn’t we have any experience and expertise for bringing gas from other sources, but we neither had the necessary infrastructure and the prepared regulatory framework to do this. It was only after the first gas crisis triggered in October 2021, when Gazprom suddenly reduced the volumes of gas supplies to Moldova, that it pushed us to look for new solutions.

After two years of hard work, we have demonstrated that we can do this. Today, 100% of the natural gas that we consume on the territory that is controlled by the constitutional authorities is now coming from the European market, including from Greece. And we are buying this gas at prices that are lower than the prices we had in the contract with Gazprom. This is the benefit of cooperation and of having options. Therefore, we are now in a fundamentally much better position. We no longer face the threat of our population not having gas in their homes which was a real dilemma in 2021 and 2022. Instead, we can now go to the next level, and together with Ukraine and our EU partners, focus on transforming Moldova into a net contributor to the regional security of gas supplies.   

The second challenge was in terms of electrical energy supply, as until the war started, Moldova and Ukraine were still part of the old Soviet electrical energy network, which prevented us from the possibility of being part of the electrical energy EU network. But the war forced our two countries to speed up our synchronisation with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), which we became a part of on March 16th 2022, in record time just three weeks after the start of the war. That gave us the possibility to bring electricity from the European market, in our case from Romania.

 

“The fruitful cooperation between Greece and Moldova not only helped us to become more resilient in terms of our own gas supplies, but at the same time it has tested and opened new opportunities for cooperation for the entire region.”

 

GDL: During the reception to mark the start the EU accession negotiations, the Ambassador of Moldova mentioned that Moldova and Greece launched in 2023 an energy partnership. How did it start and what the main elements of this partnership?

VP: Although we don’t have a formal document about our bilateral partnership in the energy field, I agree that the substance and the dynamic of our cooperation fully justifies such a term. As for its start, it can be traced back to the very turbulent end of 2022. After Gazprom suddenly and drastically reduced the supplies of natural gas to Moldova in October-November and was threatening to cut the supplies all together, we had to urgently look for emergency alternatives. It happened just several weeks after the inauguration of the Interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria (ICGB), and at that point no trader had used it yet. And that was how, Moldova’s ‘Energocom’ state-owned company became the first company that managed to commercially use the ICGB and bring the gas via this route to Moldova in December 2022. By doing so, we helped to prove the case for the commercial rational and viability of this new gas corridor based on the reverse flow use of the Trans-Balkan pipeline.

Later on, during my first visit to Athens in April 2023, ‘Energocom’ signed its first framework agreement with ‘DEPA’, based on which we bought from Greece significant volumes of natural gas, amounting to almost one-third of Moldova’s annual consumption (excluding the Transnistrian region). Most of this gas was stored in the underground gas facilities in Ukraine and is now being consumed only during the winter. So, when we promote today the use of the Vertical Gas Corridor on the scale of several billion cubic metres to be stored in Ukraine’s underground facilities for their later use, we are showing to everyone that Moldova has already successfully achieved it.

Thus, the fruitful cooperation between Greece and Moldova not only helped us to become more resilient in terms of our own gas supplies, but at the same time it has tested and opened new opportunities for cooperation for the entire region. It is a turning point for us, as for the first time Moldova is gradually becoming a regional energy security provider, bringing its relevant contribution to our joint efforts aimed at increasing interconnectivity and accelerating the integration of the regional gas and electricity markets.

Check Also

Interview with H.E. Ambassador of the Slovak Republic, Marcela Hanusová

      “Memberships in the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and other international organisations… …

error: Content is protected !!