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The renewable energy potential of the Black Sea region: a political challenge

The urgency of the fight against climate change has been acknowledged almost by every country. So far well-known for its role in the gas industry, the Black Sea region is now emerging as a potential renewables hub. However, as Corneliu Bodea, President of the Romanian Energy Center noted, it is not a technological challenge anymore: innovation is going forward and the cost of renewables is going down. For him, it is more of a political challenge as everybody must get on board for the energy transition to happen. This includes also that 13 per cent of the world’s population which doesn’t have access to electricity.

“How do we explain to them that we need an energy transition?”, he asked while opening the Black Sea Energy Week in Bucharest.

The answer is provided by governments which, with their policies, can really get everybody on board and stimulate investments in the region.

“Romania has always played an important role in the energy industry, acting as a corridor between Asia and European customers,” said Dan Dragos Dragan, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Energy of Romania. “Now, among the priorities, we need to increase the share of renewables, untapping the potential of offshore wind, storage and hydrogen, so to make Romania an innovative hub for new technologies.”

Indeed, the development of hydrogen was included in the National Energy and Climate Plan and the government now aims to have a national hydrogen strategy as well. Based on that the European Commission has just adopted a positive assessment of Romania’s recovery and resilience plan, an important step towards the disbursing of 14.2 billion euros in grants and 14.9 billion euros in loans to the country. In particular, Romania’s plan is devoting 41 per cent of the total allocation to measures that support the green transition. The plan includes measures to phase out coal and lignite power production by 2032. Reforms promoting sustainable transport include the decarbonisation of road transport, green taxation, incentives for zero-emission vehicles and a modal shift to railways and water transport.

“Romania is also promoting nuclear energy without which we cannot reach our target to become a carbon-neutral country in a carbon-neutral continent in 2050,” added Mr Dragan, referring to the importance of the Cernavoda power plant.

Also for Miroslav Damianov, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Energy of Bulgaria, nuclear is included among the government’s priorities.

“For Bulgaria a realistic path includes improving energy efficiency, increasing renewable and nuclear energy and using natural gas as a transition fuel,” he said.

“Every country and every region must do its part for the decarbonisation and cooperation is crucial,” continued Yaroslav Demchenkov, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine. “The main challenges include energy security and energy poverty and we all realise that cooperation in the Black Sea region should be based on the EU values of solidarity and rule of law.”

Ukraine is indeed supporting the EU in the fight against climate change setting up ambitions and plans to reduce its emissions by 65 per cent by 2030. And while the country is getting closer to the EU, it insists on the threats posed by the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was completed only two weeks ago.

Another country that, despite not being an EU Member, is aligning to its policies and principles, is Georgia which, after having enacted new laws that regulate energy efficiency and renewables, hopes to attract more investments.

“Unfortunately we are not rich in fossil fuels resources so we rely on imports, but we have a lot of hydro resources which at this moment constitute 75 per cent of our electricity production,” said David Tvalabeishvili, Deputy Minister at Georgia’s Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. “But in winter hydropower is at its lowest so we need other sources importing gas from outside Georgia and this dependency has increased over the years.”

Fortunately, sometimes businesses are ahead of laws and regulations and there are several interesting projects already under development in the field of solar, onshore and offshore wind, storage and hydrogen.

The number of auctions, support schemes, acquisitions and investments in the renewable energy field shows that not only companies are ready but also consumers (and prosumers) are aware of the important role they can play in the energy transition. After all, is not only about renewables but also about a change of mindset and the Black Sea region is fully embracing that.

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