Friday, May 19, 2017

US envoy hails EU-backed Balkan, East Med regional diversification projects, slams Russia’s Nord Stream-2 - NEW EUROPE

MAY 19, 2017 21:12 
Kostis Geropoulos

ATHENS – Several key energy projects currently underway in Greece will bring significant quantities of non-Russian gas to Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, and other regional partners, lessening the bloc’s reliance on Gazprom, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt told a conference in Athens.

He was referring to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector (IGB), and the expansion of the liquefied natural gas terminal (LNG) Revithoussa. “While the volumes involved are not enough to satisfy European gas demand, the introduction of new pipeline gas improves the market dynamic, encouraging competition, which will benefit everyone,” Pyatt said in remarks at Hellenic Association for Energy Economics (HAEE) Conference.

The US ambassador has long called for “relaxing the stranglehold” that Russia has had on much of Europe’s energy market, especially in the Balkans. To that end, the US has supported these and other proposed projects to improve Europe’s energy security, including the ambitious East-Med pipeline, which aims to bring newly-discovered gas supplies from Israel, Cyprus to Greece and onto Europe.

Moreover, the proposed floating storage and regasification unit near Alexandroupolis, and the development of a vertical corridor from Greece to Ukraine would help bring new sources of natural gas to Greece and to the rest of Europe,” Pyatt said.

“To be clear, these projects are not intended to supplant the need for Russian gas. Gazprom has been and will continue to be an important supplier of energy to Europe. But these projects change the equation and help create a situation where Russia cannot use energy as a weapon or force countries to bend to its political will,” the US Ambassador said, reiterated the US government’s support for European energy security and the EU Energy Union.

He once again slammed Nord Stream-2, noting that doubling the capacity of the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany could undermine European energy security. He urged the Commission to apply the Third Energy Package, and other relevant laws and regulations consistent, to all aspects of the Nord Stream-2, including both onshore and offshore sections. “Our opposition to Nord Stream-2 is clear,” he said.

“I also worry that projects here in Greece like the onshore portion of ITGI Poseidon, could exacerbate reliance on Russian gas, ultimately working against the interests of Greece and our other European allies,” Pyatt said, referring to Russia’s plans to use the stalled Interconnector-Greece-Italy to expand the second line of the Turkish Stream pipeline to Italy and onto Europe.

“Moving forward, there’s real potential for Greece to emerge as a significant European energy hub and I hope, one day, as a destination for US LNG exports, if available opportunities can be locked in,” he said, adding that development in the energy sector can drive the economy as Greece emerges from this crisis period and begins to lay the foundation for sustainable growth. He added that Greece has also been a leader in building renewable energy sources, developing expertise in the field that has allowed Greek companies to succeed around the world.

Meanwhile, other HAEE conference participants in Athens noted that it is very difficult to compete with Russian gas because the cost is very low. It’s not only the price issue, but it’s also a matter of volumes, they said, adding that there is, however, space in the gas market for other suppliers.