We are living in challenging times for energy.
The good news is that challenges bring opportunities for renewal and transformation.
Globally we will live in a more competitive, energy intensive world.
The global population will grow by over a quarter by 2050; that means two billion more people needing access to water, food, fuel and energy.
With just 10 % of the world’s population, Europe accounts for 12% of global consumption. But over the next decades - as our population decreases - we will account for only 8% of global consumption.
This translates to a Europe whose influence over global markets - is weak – and getting weaker.
Hydrocarbon production is falling; import dependence is a basic characteristic of the EU’s energy system.
There is only one way for Europe to overcome its declining influence: To move towards an “ever closer Union”.
Personally I believe, “We are only as strong as we are united and as weak as we are divided”.
As if these challenges are not enough, they are compounded by conflicts and tensions affecting many oil and gas producing areas of the world.
Last, this is also a turbulent time for global energy markets: oil costs less than half what it did three years ago, and prices for natural gas in Europe and Asia are at historic lows, undermining the development of new projects.
But, as I said: challenges offer opportunities.
Our biggest opportunity lies in the extraordinary progress of technology. We have to exploit this.
Renewables, smart grids, smart homes, electro-mobility; gas as marine fuel and for cars: These innovations can drive Europe’s transition; to a modern, cleaner and efficient energy system.
Remember: For every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, EU gas imports fall by 2.6%.
One of my missions - as Minister of Energy was to promote Europe’s 2030 energy and climate policies.
This was not an easy ride: At the time these proposals were controversial. But we seized the opportunity of the up-coming Paris Conference. We wanted to ensure its success, with Europe leading by example with forward-looking, ambitious policies.
Now we need to do much more if we want to keep global warming below 2°Celsius. We have the opportunity. “Paris” is now in force. We must exploit the momentum and transform the Agreement into concrete actions.
The Commission’s new “Smart and Clean Energy Package”, presented in November, while challenging, is constructive.
Of course we are waiting for the new American administration‘s response to the Agreement. Will it withdraw or will it stay? Whatever: America’s absence will have serious consequences; providing the world with excuses for in-action.
It must not become an excuse for Europe. On the contrary, an American departure gives Europe the opportunity and obligation to increase efforts and continue leading the fight against climate change.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Coming to the Greek reality, let me refer to 3 crucial matters: The PPC (Public Power Corporation) privatization process, the national Hydrocarbon reserves exploitation, and the Gas Pipelines Projects.
The law which we adopted on July 2014 about “Small PPC”, was a serious and ambitious investment plan with many real benefits.
We used as best practice, how Italy privatized ENEL in 1999, during the administration of Massimo d’Alema who was the leader of the Centre-left Olive party and the first ex-Communist to become prime-minister in a NATO country. They decided to essentially cut-off and privatize about 30% of the then state Company.
Today, after sixteen years, the profits of the remaining ENEL Company have grown and are four times higher than profits in 1999, while it is active in 40 countries.
The respective Greek law we adopted in 2014 was finally abolished 2 years later in 2016 and Mr Tsipras announced that he felt proud for his Government’s achievement.
Today, some months later, there is nothing to remind these glorious days. The Government wanted to maintain PPC as a public company. Now they are worried that they are transforming PPC into a public danger.
The wrong governmental decisions have the following results for PPC:
Its credit rating has fallen four times. Uncollectible money due has doubled reaching €3 billion euros. It has lost a great number of its customers – mainly good payers. It has lost more than 50% of its share value. The approach, to shrink PPC obligatory by 50% in a 3 years period, constitutes a deliberate strategy - agreed between SYRIZA and “Greece’s Lenders”. With no economic gain in exchange.
The fact that the competent Ministry is now seeking a compromise on the electricity NOME style auctions.
As Minister of Energy I made sure to use the opportunity offered by new technology to develop Greece’s hydrocarbon wealth.
Since 2012, three international tenders have been launched for exploration and exploitation in certain areas of the country.
Unfortunately, the evaluation procedure of the submitted offers is still ongoing.
In reality nobody has been informed about the inexcusable delays of Hydrocarbon exploration in Greece for the last 2 years.
We have asked at the Parliament the Greek Prime-Minister what are the governmental priorities and the reason of these terrible delays. We have not yet any answer, despite the importance of the issue.
The sharp fall of oil and natural gas prices, despite the positive impact they may have in many areas of the economy, have also a negative overall effect for the exploitation of hydrocarbons. The question of course remains if Greece can take advantage of this lull in global oil exploration activity in order to prepare and organize adequately its relevant administration so as to take advantage when prices rebound and the market recovers.
It is possible to exploit this "window of opportunity period" to move on and take a series of actions that are absolutely necessary and will contribute to the effective organization of Greece’s upstream sector; Such an issue is upgrading of the quality and quantity of available data for the offshore areas. Indicatively, 2D seismic lines infill where the existing grid is pretty sparse, targeted 3D seismic programmes in sub areas of high interest, additional geological and geophysical “readings” in the area.
The incvestment interest must be kept high and the available information should be continuously upgraded.
We succeeded in turning the EU’s diversification strategy into a great opportunity for Greece. We did this by ensuring that Caspian gas enters Europe via Greece, through Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) making it the EU’s gateway for the Southern Corridor, upgrading the country’s geo-strategic importance.
I remind you that this outcome was not inevitable. Greece could easily have been by-passed if another project had been selected and I am talking about Nabucco. I am pleased, that the SYRIZA government is now supporting the TAP project.
But we need more diversification, coming from the Eastern Mediterranean.
Discoveries offshore Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, and potentially Lebanon will continue as catalysts for economic and political cooperation, through interconnection and integration.
In this context, since 2011 we developed regional partnerships with Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. Their consolidation must continue.
Following the discovery of Tamar, Leviathan and Aphrodite, Zohr confirms the region’s importance for energy security.
I see the Eastern Mediterranean as Europe’s biggest opportunity; strengthening energy security with gas from its vicinity. And for Greece the chance to become the EU’s bridge with the new resources.
The EastMed pipeline is unique. It can deliver 10 bcm directly to Europe’s markets, exclusively via EU Member States. It creates extra security through a completely new route. It avoids over-dependence on the route used for Caspian gas via Turkey.
At first there was skepticism. Personally, I always believed in it.
And last summer we received confirmation. The results of the pre-feasibility study proved conclusively, that the project is both technically and economically viable. Thanks to advanced technology it can carry 10, instead of 8 bcm as originally assumed.
There are other significant opportunities we must exploit: the favorable LNG market allowing Europe access to well-priced volumes: let’s build the necessary infrastructure, including the terminal in Northern Greece, as well as the IGB Pipeline as first part of Vertical Corridor in South Eastern Europe.