The 5th Southeast Europe Energy Forum in Thessaloniki was successfully completed. The country’s top energy conference on the energy sector was held for the fifth consecutive year by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce and the Hellenic Energy Economy Company in collaboration with the US Embassy in Greece and the strategic support of the Atlantic Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The agenda of the 5th Southeast Europe Energy Forum was dominated by the role of Greece and its investment prospects in the energy sector, while at the same time, the plans and services for the utilization of green energy were presented. The conference also focused on new collaborations and the development of green innovation, advances in energy-related materials and processes, smart energy management tools, and tools and infrastructure for adaptation to climate change and the conservation of ecosystems.
The strong collaborations of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce with the US institutional and business ecosystem, in combination with the presence of leading figures of the political, business and academic community from Greece and Europe, created the conditions for a meaningful and influential dialogue, the map of the next day. The US ambassadors to Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, northern Macedonia and Serbia stressed the importance to the US, the energy sector in SE Europe and the SE Mediterranean in general. Through the dialogue that developed, they highlighted the investment perspective for the next day and presented the energy developments in the region.
Nikolaos Bakatselos, President of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, said: “Regional alliances and cooperation in the field of energy determine the geopolitical developments in the region of SE Europe. Climate change is now creating new data that must be addressed immediately and effectively. The agenda of the 5th Southeast Europe Energy Forum is dominated by the opportunities and risks posed by geopolitical developments, the role of regional markets in SE Europe in investment initiatives, the exploitation of alternative energy sources, the European Green Deal, the increase energy costs and the supply chain, as well as how the energy sector is affected by digitization and automation. Greece’s role and investment prospects have been upgraded, giving a significant boost to the country’s economy. “Greece is called upon to face the new challenges and to utilize its geopolitical advantage in order to regain a stable development”.
Elias Spyrtounias, General Manager of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are witnessing profound changes in the energy sector, with oil and gas climbing to high prices, which in combination with rising prices for raw materials affects prices goods and the whole chain, with worrying consequences right now for economies in Europe and elsewhere. The clear signs of climate change are leading the EU, the US and most of the developed countries to legislate even greater reductions in gaseous emissions, and this is leading to the rapid development of alternative and mainly renewable energy sources and an explosion of innovative new technologies, automotive industry, shipping and transport in the field of energy saving in general “.
Costas Andriosopoulos, Chairman of the Energy Committee of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, noted: “Many of the projects we worked on to promote, presenting in previous forums, are actually being implemented. “The cooperation between Greece and its neighboring countries in gas infrastructure projects that we had discussed, or electricity interconnections, are becoming a reality.”
Kurt Donnelly, Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs at the US Department of State, Senior Officer (SBO) at the United States Bureau of Energy Resources, said: main in energy. We met in the summer and discussed achievements such as the completion of the Southern Gas Corridor, but also the support of Greece’s role as a “driver” of regional transformation and cooperation. I talked to Mr. Skrekas and congratulated him on the vision that Greece has brought to this issue, emerging as a leader and pointing the way as a good example of how we can tackle these issues together. We will meet again next month in the strategic dialogue and we will work new priorities, such as hydrogen, best practices for the introduction of RES in our energy mixes, the very difficult but also important issue of cybersecurity, and after something that we both strongly support, the “Three Seas Initiative ».
The common assessment that Greece’s cooperation with its neighbors in the Balkans is the key to its success in providing alternatives to the traditional Russian gas monopoly, taking advantage of the many opportunities offered by the energy transition, was expressed from the step of the 5th Southeast Europe Energy Forum 2021 the US Ambassadors, in Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt, in Albania Yuri Kim, in Northern Macedonia Kate Mary Byrnes, in Bulgaria Herro Mustafa and in Serbia Anthony F. Godfrey.
Geoffrey R. Pyatt, US Ambassador to Greece, said: “The need for diversification of energy sources is not just a matter of the national agenda but concerns the wider region. “Greece’s role is crucial for the development of a network of relations with its neighbors, with the aim of ensuring an energy future for the wider region free of monopolies.”
The US Ambassador to Northern Macedonia, Kate Mary Byrnes, noted: “No one can go it alone. “Even a small country like Northern Macedonia can play an important role in the energy transition process.”
The Ambassador of the United States to Serbia, Anthony F. Godfrey, stated: “Serbia is a large market with great challenges and opportunities. “Serbia’s dependence on lignite for energy production is up to 70%.”
For her part, Yuri Kim, US Ambassador to Albania, said: “Energy production in Albania comes almost exclusively from hydropower plants and although it is a renewable energy source, it depends mainly on the weather and in particular on the amount of annual rainfall, which makes the country short of electricity “.
The US Ambassador to Bulgaria, Herro Mustafa, stressed: “Energy security is also national security. “If Bulgaria manages to diversify its energy sources, it means a stronger Bulgaria, a much stronger region.”
It is worth noting that in the framework of the 5th Southeast Europe Energy Forum, a cooperation agreement for the development and construction of the interconnected natural gas pipeline Greece – Northern Macedonia was signed by DESFA and NER JSCSKOPJE. Specifically, the agreement was signed between the CEO of DESFA, Maria Rita Galli, and the Executive Director of NER JSC SKOPJE, Bajram Rexhepi, in the presence of the Minister of Environment and Energy of Greece, Costas Skrekas, the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt and the US Ambassador to Northern Macedonia, Mary Kate Byrnes. The cooperation agreement establishes the principles of cooperation, according to which DESFA and NER intend to coordinate the main phases, the respective commitments and the accompanying milestones of the development of the gas pipeline interconnection project, including the launch of the binding Market Test later in of the year, according to the terms and conditions, as they will be approved by RAE, and after the positive Final Investment Decision (FID) on both sides, which is expected in the first half of 2022, facilitating the timely and effective completion of the construction of the project, based on an agreed schedule.
Maria Rita Galli, CEO of DESFA, pointed out: “Today’s signing of the Cooperation Agreement between DESFA and NER gives a significant impetus to the development of a mutually beneficial project for Greece and Northern Macedonia, while further establishing the role of DESFA as a catalyst for the transition of the region of South East Europe to an interconnected and sustainable energy future. “DESFA remains faithful to its vision to put Greece at the core of energy developments, with the opening of new energy roads and the emergence of the country as an international energy hub of a sustainable, secure and cost-effective European market.”
For his part, Bajram Rexhepi, Executive Director of NER JSC SKOPJE, said: “The signing of this agreement between the two companies is one of the last and very important steps towards our final goal, the beginning of the realization of the gas interconnection” .
Costas Skrekas, Minister of Environment and Energy, from the podium of the 5th Southeast Europe Energy Forum, said: gas supply in south-eastern Europe. We enable our northern neighbor to reduce its environmental footprint, by gradually replacing polluting natural gas and contributing to the overall European goal of a climate-neutral European economy by 2050. The project is important as it will be a growth driver for the two countries’ economies, creating thousands of jobs during construction of the pipeline “.
Alexandra Sdoukou, Secretary General of Energy and Mineral Resources of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, underlined: “We will present a draft law in the coming weeks with further simplifications in the licensing process. We have completed this work and we will proceed with a discussion with the interested parties before bringing it to the Parliament. We believe in the ministry that a scheme that will support renewable energy sources is the most effective way to increase their growth. ”
The Minister of Energy of Bulgaria, Andrey Zhivkov, pointed out: “The improvement of infrastructure in the region and in the energy sector is a precondition for the deepening of economic cooperation between the countries, this process has long-term results, creates new supply chains, new jobs, improving the well-being of society “.
The Minister of Energy, Trade and Industry of the Republic of Cyprus, Natasa Pileidou, spoke via video conference and noted: “Natural gas plays an important role in the region, it will allow the transition of Cyprus and the countries of the region to green energy. “All the countries in the region are giving priority to this issue and are taking quick and impressive steps in that direction.”
In a videotaped salute, Zorana Mihajlovic, Serbia’s deputy prime minister and energy minister, said: “The recent rise in gas prices is a reminder that we can only have energy security and stability if we are supplied by different pipelines and suppliers.”
The interesting discussion ended with the positions of Konstantinos Frangogiannis, Deputy Minister of Economic Diplomacy and Extroversion and Maria DiGiulian, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe, Eurasia, Africa, and the Middle East U.S. Department of Energy, highlighting the role of the Energy sector in the diplomatic relations of the countries. The panel was moderated by Elias Spyrtounias, General Manager of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce.