Romanian Energy Strategy: Could we speed things up a little bit?
- Written by Laurentiu Rosoiu
Completed in record time by the Ministry of Energy in 2016 and launched for public debate late last year, the long-awaited ‘Romanian Energy Strategy’ could be approved, in the fortunate event, by year end. Nothing wrong so far if we consider that a document of such scale requires multidisciplinary analysis in regard to the implications and possible effects.
However, since the future development and direction of the oil and gas industry (among other industries/fields - but probably one of the most important!) depend on the completion of the steps taken, it is hard to accept any delay; every extra day delay in the approval process means a day late for the companies’ plans.
We are talking about a multi-million-euro industry which bears not only a bureaucratic and inhibitive regulatory and fiscal framework, but also imperative investment needs; investments mean, of course, money for the budget and jobs... which could be also anchors to give the stability the businesses and industry (and thus the entire national economy) to the country (and economy!) in a geopolitical and economic context extremely troubled and unpredictable at regional and European level.
In other words, the current situation is difficult. Europe is facing the lack of direction and strategy regarding joint energy strategy; Brexit adds tension on the market, the uncertainties arising from the change of status the UK had in the European energy system; the Nord Stream 2 project goes ahead despite contradictory discussions with the European Commission officials, which means that the centre of gravity, in terms of inflows of natural gas in the European area, is practically just moving from East to the North-West without a real increase in energy independence for the countries in Central and South-Eastern Europe. This is just the review of three of the elements that may potentially destabilize the European Union, and therefore us.
In this context, what are we, the Romanians, doing? First, we continue higher taxation of the local companies (among other, by the already well-known tax pole!) - which lay pressure on their profitability and also on their domestic sales; let’s note e.g. Romgaz, with sales that fell in 2016 mainly due to the fact that the gas production price was higher than the one of imported gas (from Gazprom). What else are we (not) doing? We seem not to notice that the European Commission and Gazprom are already very close to an agreement by which the Russian company assumes a number of commitments - including that of not block gas resale... an agreement from which Romania is excluded; or, in order to return to the starting point, we submit the energy strategy to the Ministry of Environment for analysis and approval... and we forget it there, waiting patiently and quietly for a number of civil servants to make a judgment and put a stamp or a signature.
What could we do or what should we do? To speed up the approval of the Energy Strategy! Thus, the companies in the field could go ahead with the development plans and with the investment projects and programs. The sooner this happen, the faster Romania will manage to consolidate as an island of real independence, stability, know-how and natural resources in the energy system of Central and Southeast Europe. Taking into account the dynamics (very rapid) of events - especially the current negative ones, the sooner we do it - the better for us!