Energy Union Head: No More Nabucco's
The days of mega infrastructure projects for the European energy sector are likely over, according to Vice President of the European Commission, in charge of the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič, who yesterday addressed members of the press in Hungary's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of his diplomatic road show to discuss the Energy Union with EU member states.
The Energy Union is a long-term energy and climate strategy that is to be approved by EU members this month.
In Budapest, Mr. Šefčovič reported that, in the wake of the cancellation of South Stream last December, all parties in Europe have been paying attention to statements from Russia, as a gas supplier, and Europe's stance on infrastructure has been altered.
He explained, “The new perspective from Brussels on energy security is not to expect some huge project to resolve all our problems, because we have our own experience with South Stream and Nabucco, but to go for a series of projects that we can manage, which will be in our hands.”
Interconnectors, he said, will make the gas system of south-east Europe part of the overall system, make them much better linked and offer diversification of supplies. “So we can get gas from the west, east, north, from the south – making sure that those countries that are isolated or overly dependent on the dominant supplier – have access to at least three different sources of gas.”
It is also crucial, he said, that energy be free-flowing among the EU member states.
Mr. Šefčovič said he appreciates the Hungarian approach to regional energy security and its responsible approach to building interconnectors.
Energy security is the hottest subject in Central & Eastern Europe, said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in his remarks to the press.
Central and Eastern Europe, he said, is still exposed in terms of energy supplies, and the vulnerabilities must be addressed. Hungary, he explained, was making efforts to connect the region's energy infrastructure, with special emphasis on natural gas infrastructure.
It is the responsibility of the Hungarian government, said Minister Szijjarto, to secure supplies of energy to Hungarian residents and industry; he named a number of investments that had been made towards that, like interconnectors with Slovakia and Romania, but added that Croatia and Romania had not met their project deadlines.
“We also recognize that because of geopolitical and regional factors, we are faced with numerous serious challenges from the standpoint of energy security,” he stated, mentioning the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as Gazprom's intentions to discontinue use of the gas infrastructure traversing Ukraine as of 2019.
The Hungarian government, he explained, is tasked with spearheading a big, strategic gas pipeline in the region that connects Central Europe with Turkey. He commented, “Turkey will not only be a significant gas hub from geopolitical but also from regional aspects as well, so that's why a connection between Turkey and Central Europe makes for both diversification of routes as well as sources.”
Minister Szijjarto mentioned that there are several potential pipeline plans, which he and Mr. Šefčovič had discussed. “We consider it a good thing that there are several alternatives,” he said, “in order to enhance energy security.”
He named the “Tesla” project, an agreement for which was signed between Hungary and others at the end of May.
Of his Energy Union road show, Mr. Šefčovič said: “We fully realize that the Energy Union cannot be built from Brussels; it has to be built in the member states: in our cities, our towns and our communities, and we need strong public support for this project.”
For this reason, he explained that he is visiting member states to visit with government representatives, stakeholders, NGOs and citizens to hear about how they see project and what their priorities are in the context of the Energy Union.
In light of the recent declaration signed by the leadership of six international oil companies, who pledged to take greater progress on climate change if governments seek a global price for carbon emissions, Natural Gas Europe asked him about using gas as a tool for addressing climate change.
Mr. Šefčovič said he thinks the role of natural gas will be very important in the future energy mix as part of a very ambitious climate action agenda, taking into consideration CO2, energy efficiency and renewable energy production.