From ‘coal and steel’ to ‘sun and wind’
The European Union is transforming itself from the ‘coal and steel’ alliance it was at its founding to one of ‘ sun and wind’, with the ‘energy union’ focusing on five pillars of reforms, most of which will be implemented this year, according to European Commission Vice President Maros Sevcovic.
Concluding his Energy Union Tour to Cyprus during a two-day visit, the Slovak Commissioner in charge of the Energy portfolio said that the Juncker Commission’s priorities have five dimensions: better energy security, completing the internal market reform, decarbonisation, energy efficiency and focus on research and innovation.
He said that for the Energy Union priorities, this will be a year of delivery of about 90% of what has been promised.
During his visit, Sevcovic said he discussed “the new and important role of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean with the new discoveries of natural gas,” but that he was also very encouraged with what he saw on the island, especially as regards the attention paid to renewables.
He said that there is a change in the geo-economic and even in the geopolitical scenery and that Cyprus can very soon remove itself from being an energy island.
Sevcovic mentioned the five Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) approved for Cyprus, two of which relate to the 2,000 MW EuroAsia Interconnector cable and another two for gas interconnection.
He added that the recent discoveries in the Cyprus, Egyptian and Israeli offshore fields could boost natural gas exports to Europe, which is a “very good customer, we pay high prices, on time and in hard currency.”
Sevcovic said that having realised that Cyprus has a priority to use some of the liquid natural gas (LNG) output for domestic use, that there is still room for exports, as European demands are currently estimated at about 400-500 billion cubic metres a year (14.1 trillion cubic feet to 17.6 tcf). He said that the recent discovery at the Egyptian Zohr gasfield alone would satisfy all of Europe’s needs for eight years.
Cyprus Aphrodite gasfield, operated by US Noble Energy and partners Delek/Avner and recently BG, has a reserve of about 4-5 tcf, with the Italian ENI and Korean Kogas venture planning more explorations in their own gasfields.
On the Cyprus problem, Sevcovic said he was encouraged by the positive climate, which he also confirmed from his meetings with the two negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Ozdil Nami.
“I see a lot of positive developments in Cyprus,” he told a press briefing at the EU House, noting that the economy of Cyprus is picking up and that unemployment is gradually going down. He also said that he was very encouraged by his meetings with political leaders and that he “got the clear impression that there is strong effort being put on looking for the best possible outcome for the Cyprus issue”.
“It was clear that both sites understand each other very well and are ready to look for the creative solutions which would bring the positive conclusion of the Cyprus settlement talks,” he noted.
Vice-President Sevcovic said that thanks to Cyprus and the good partnership it has developed over the years with Egypt, Israel and Jordan, “we are now looking at the possibilities of a joint approach for the development of this newly found natural wealth in this part of the Mediterranean”.
“We want to open Europe to more suppliers of gas to make sure that we will have security and more competition to get better prices for the consumers. In this respect developments in the eastern Mediterranean are very positive” he said.
Europe, he said, “is going to develop its own LNG strategy and we see the Mediterranean as a gateway for possible new supply routes to come from this region to Europe. What we can offer is that we are very transparent” he noted.
The Commission officials also highlighted Cyprus’ enormous potential in renewable energy.
As he said, Cyprus is on track when it comes to the targets for 2020, adding that he was assured by the Cypriot Energy Minister that in the field of renewables, energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions all the targets for 2020 will be met.
He stressed the need to adopt good decisions locally but that “we also need to adjust the European systems to be able to integrate the renewables better, because the same challenges Cyprus is facing are faced by many European member states and therefore we want to present by the end of the next year a landmark legislation and this will be the proposal on how to redesign the European electricity market”.