Speech at the Bucharest Forum, titled:
"Balancing Regional and Global Energy Priorities: What Future for the European Energy Security Strategy? Linking the East and the West through Investments and Infrastructure" [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]
Thank you Mr Iuga for your introductory remarks, Minister Gerea, Ambassador Constantinescu, distinguished guests,
Let me start by thanking you for giving me the opportunity to address you here today. I will not dwell on the excellence of the Bucharest Forum or the Aspen Institute because if you are sitting here today it is because you know as well as I do that this is one of the most prestigious conferences in Romania on policy and business.
But beyond its intellectual contribution, from a European perspective, events like today's offer a rare opportunity for EU decision-makers, like myself, to engage and interact with Romanian stakeholders, civil society and citizens – interested in energy policy. Such exchanges are more important than ever in order to bring the EU to its citizens and engage with them in the process of shaping our common future.
This one of the main reasons I launched the Energy Union Tour back in May. Since then I have been travelling across the Member States in order to explain what the Energy Union is about and what it means in the specific national context, and of course to listen to local and national concerns.
I have been meeting with the national governments and when possible parliaments, with stakeholders and civil society, with citizens. So far, the Energy Union Tour has been an extremely insightful process for me; I learned a great deal by visiting some of Europe's best practices and most inspiring projects; projects which I have been trying to promote and showcase after leaving.
I would therefore like to tell you about the Energy Union, as one of the top priorities of this Commission whose ambitious strategy is boost our energy security by integrating all our national energy markets into one which is rich in renewables and new technologies; which is highly energy efficient making use of the latest research and innovation. Most importantly: I would like to talk about the role I envision for Romania in it.
But rest assured, I am not here only to present to you but to listen and take note of what matters to you.
Romania is the 19th country to which I am bringing the Energy Union Tour but it is quite unique if I compare it to all others. What do I meant by that?
Unlike other countries in this part of Europe, Romania has always been a supply-driven energy market due to the rich natural resources which you've been blessed with, making you an important exporter.
I think Romania can and should sustain its role as a regional energy hub. But in order to do so, the Romanian energy market must adapt to the global energy trends which we are currently seeing.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The 21st century will no longer be about who has the biggest reserves of oil, gas or coal. The leaders of the new economy will be those who can find the best technological solutions for integrating sustainable energy, such as renewables sources into electricity grids. And by best solutions I mean the most advanced, most competitive, and most economically viable.
It's not only about air pollution, or climate change or global public opinion which is shifting away from fossil-fuels. As we all know, natural sources are finite, extinguishable; whereas renewables are an infinite resource. It is just about being smart enough to capture this energy, to store it, to transmit it. The new economy is therefore more about the 'how' than about the 'how much'; how do we best produce our energy rather than how much oil, gas and carbon we have lying underneath.
Romania has already made significant progress in this direction and the 2013 data shows that you were almost at the 2020 targets already back then! But I am not saying that in order to create complacency. Quite the contrary; I encourage you to continue the efforts as new investments are still needed in order to stay on track.
There is still plenty of untapped potential, especially when it comes to solar and biomass in Romania. Trust me, this is the ultimate all-win scenario because such diversification will increase Romania's security of supply, its ability to export energy, it will create high quality jobs in a field which is booming, and it will serve our European and global efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
But what does the global energy transition mean for Romania? I believe there are several lessons that can be drawn from this:
Your experience and expertise is invaluable and must contribute to the new debate on energy transition, given Romania's traditional role as the country which was the 5th global oil producer until the Second World War and is still among the biggest in Europe. There is tremendous potential for research and innovation and I have no doubt that your scientists, your researchers, your entrepreneurs can make a significant contribution to this process. It is no coincidence that the first European city to introduce electric street lights was Timișoara, here in Romania. This required foresight, innovative spirit and boldness and I think it is needed as much now as it was back then in 1884.
If you bring your experience and plug it into the new energy sciences, Romania will remain an important energy exporter. Technology, by the way, is much easier to export than resources. When your scientists come up with a ground-breaking solution they will be able to apply it anywhere on the globe. Considering that 1.3 billion people on this planet still have no access to electricity, and that their governments are eagerly looking for solutions – there is a huge market out there.
There is a second conclusion from this transition which I think is highly relevant to Romania and that is the necessary shift from a market which has always been supply-oriented to focusing on mitigating demand.
Energy efficiency is the new name of the game. In the Energy Union rhetoric, we call it the 'efficiency first' principle, meaning we would like efficiency technologies to be in a position to compete on equal terms with generation capacity.
Here again, I can talk to you about our moral imperative to decarbonise, about the UN Climate Conference which is coming up in Paris, or about the political commitment, taken by the Heads of States and Governments to bring energy efficiency to 27%. All of these are valid and important points.
But I'd like to talk about what this means for Romania. Romania is on track to meeting its national 2020 efficiency target. Yet, as I am sure you are all aware of, the Romanian potential here is also not yet fully exhausted – especially when it comes to residential and industrial sectors. We in the Commission have put a range of financial instruments, including the Cohesion Funds and the newly-established European Fund for Strategic Investment, which we colloquially call Juncker Funds.
Turning more efficient will mean lowering your energy bills, both household consumers and industrial ones. It means reducing the rate of energy poverty. Currently, there are 14% of Romanians who cannot afford to properly heat their homes in winter and energy efficiency could be an important part of the solution to their problem.
Above all, energy efficiency means a huge potential for investors who are constantly and eagerly looking for new technologies to reduce energy consumption. This could therefore mean a new wave of investment which would create new jobs, and boost the energy and building sectors.
Romania has always been investor-friendly. The best way to sustain this kind of investment climate is by adapting to the global market's needs and providing solutions, rather than resources.
Up until now I have hardly spoken about your geographic location which also creates significant opportunities, especially at this point in time. I have mentioned that Romania has served as an energy hub and I would particularly like to commend its role within the Central East South Europe Gas Connectivity (CESEC) with regards to gas and its electricity market coupling with Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. But I encourage you to continue to play an important role in this region both with EU Member States and with our partners in the Energy Community. Of course, your role will increase even further in case off-shore reserves in the Black Sea are exploited.
But this entails further significant investment in modernising the existing system and in building further investment of cross-border electricity transmission and gas interconnectors, such as the Ruse-Giurgiu on the Bulgarian border.
This point in time is interesting for regional cooperation because of the political impetus which was created, among others by the Energy Union and by the geopolitical tensions on our eastern borders which pushed European leaders further to find alternative supply solutions.
Of course, from a European perspective, we see this as an important piece in the puzzle of the regional network. But Romania will see clear and direct benefits. In the case of gas, sufficient inter-connection will diminish Romanian dependence on Russia, as its single supplier, therefore enhancing your security of supply. When it comes to electricity, Romania could quickly become an exporter of its over-capacity – directly into Europe's markets, both within and outside the EU.
My meeting this morning with Prime Minister Ponta was also an opportunity to welcome Romania's liberalisation efforts. Of course, we at the Commission fully share the concern to protect vulnerable consumers and we will be happy to assist with finding adequate solutions which do not hamper healthy market functioning. This will be also my reassurance to President Iohannis who I am seeing tomorrow in Brussels.
The same market liberalisation will also be crucial when it comes to trade with Romania's neighbours which must be done in the European spirit; this means ensuring free flows across-borders and avoiding regulatory barriers.
I started off by describing the context of my visits to Romania as part of the Energy Union Tour and I'd like to conclude by telling about some of the reactions I received so far. My visit was an opportunity for me to discuss what the Energy Union means for Romania with Prime Minister Ponta and Minister Gerea, both of whom I met this morning and who clearly recognised the opportunities the Energy Union holds.
I also met with Romanian stakeholders and civil society in order to keep them abreast and to take note of their observations. I am going to meet with President Iohannis, Minister Aurescu and with Members of your Parliament whose endorsement is also very important for the success of this project.
This is a tight schedule which I sometimes do in 2 or 3 countries in the same week but it is indispensable for me to present, in person, in the Member States, the state of play of the Energy Union and bring all actors on board.
The next major milestone of the Energy Union will come in one month time; on 18 November I will present the first annual State of the Energy Union. Having met and exchanged with the Member States, having seen where they stand towards their national targets, having heard about their priorities and concerned – I will present where we are at European level and where the gaps remain.
Due to the shortage of our time I chose to focus on the political elements of the Energy Union. Before I conclude I would just like to mention that in parallel, the Commission is preparing a comprehensive set of legislative proposals in order to set the grounds for a single low-carbon European energy market.
As you can see, the implementation of the Energy Union Strategy is keeping us very busy and will continue to keep us busy at least until mid-2017. We made a conscious decision to deliver all our legislation within the first half of this Commission's mandate in order to leave ourselves time to negotiate with the other institutions and see our proposals mature before the end of this Commission's term.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Juncker Commission promised to be big on big things, to focus on matters which have a significant impact on the lives of Europe's citizens. I am deeply convinced that the Energy Union is one of them. There is no wonder President Juncker placed it as the third top priority of his mandate. With your help, citizens, stakeholders, civil society and citizens – I am sure we can make deliver ensure every European has access to secure, competitive and sustainable energy.
Thank you very much.