Sunday, 19 January 2020
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Energy Diplomacy

Energy Diplomacy

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic acknowledges the importance of international energy policy issues in the 21st century and considers the energy policy-making process a high priority of our country. In close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Energy and other competent Agencies, particular emphasis is given to monitoring the developments in the European Union’s (EU) energy policy and the sectors of gas and oil infrastructure and transportation networks, liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facilities, electricity transmission networks and Renewable Energy Sources (RES).

Through the establishment of international energy relations, Greece's energy policy pursues maximization of energy security, competitiveness of prices and diversification of sources. In this direction, there are a number of bilateral and trilateral schemes of cooperation, where the Greek-Cypriot axis lays as cornerstone and other countries of the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean and the region of South-Eastern Europe participate. Furthermore, in a multilateral level our country is actively engaged in several schemes (European Union, Energy Union, East Mediterranean Gas Forum-EMGF, International Energy Agency - IEA, V4 + 4 + 2, etc.).

Greece wishes to act as a gateway and an energy transit hub from east to west and from south to north. Thus, it is of great importance that a part of the so-called Southern Corridor crosses our country. A major component of the EU's policy for energy security and diversification of sources, the Southern Corridor includes the SCPX (South Caucasus Pipeline Expansion), TANAP (Trans-Anatolian Pipeline) and TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) pipelines, transporting natural gas from the Caspian Sea (Second Development Stage of the Shah Deniz gas field) to the European market (Southern Italy) via Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Albania.

TAP pipeline, being a PCI project (Project of Common Interest) and the last part of the Southern Gas Corridor, is considered as one of the ten most important energy projects being implemented worldwide. The construction of the Greek section of TAP is almost completed and commercial operation is about to start by the end of 2020. TAP contributes to Greece's energy security by supplying our country with 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, upgrades its role as a transport hub from the Caspian fields to Europe's markets and creates new opportunities for the Southeast Europe's emerging energy markets to meet their energy challenges through “vertical” interconnectors. Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP) is a typical example, a bi-directional gas pipeline planned to be connected with TAP in Fieri, Albania, to run through Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina to   Split, Croatia.

Moreover, North Macedonia is interested in being supplied by TAP and other energy infrastructure of the region through Greece. Towards this end, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the competent authorities of the two countries for the construction of a gas interconnector, with the planned starting point being in Greece’s New Mesimvria.

Our country promotes the implementation of a “Vertical Gas Corridor” (crossing Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova), which will actually be a network of existing and proposed natural gas infrastructure projects. Its purpose will be to carry natural gas from a variety of sources, such as the Revithoussa LNG Terminal, the planned Alexandroupolis FSRU and TAP, through Bulgaria to the Central and Eastern Europe countries.

A key project for the realization of the Vertical Gas Corridor, that can also operate as its first part, is IGB (Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector) gas pipeline. A bi-directional pipeline that will connect the Greek and Bulgarian gas networks (Komotini-Stara Zagora), IGB is designed to transport natural gas from the above mentioned sources. An Intergovernmental Agreement on the implementation of the project was signed between Greece and Bulgaria on October 10, 2019 in Sofia.

Following the discovery of significant hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean (Egypt, Israel, Cyprus), productive cooperation with neighboring countries and the EU on the energy sector is a priority for our country. In implementation of this policy, Greece actively promotes the operation and planning of energy infrastructure in the region. Significantly, the EastMed Gas Pipeline (Greece-Cyprus-Israel-Italy), which is planned to transport gas from the Levantine Basin fields to Europe via Crete and mainland Greece, as well as the electrical interconnections between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, are expected to produce geopolitical and economic benefits for all stakeholders at regional and European level.

In addition to the above, demand for LNG is rapidly increasing worldwide due to its flexibility in use, its price competitiveness, its relatively low environmental impact, in comparison to other fossil fuels, and the implementation of an energy transition policy for a decarbonised economy at a global level. Following current trends, Greece optimizes the operation of the LNG terminal in Revithoussa and promotes the planning and construction of the floating LNG storage and regasification unit (FSRU) in Alexandroupolis, with the aim of obtaining energy security for itself and the wider region, while exploiting the potential of the LNG sector.

Likewise, the LNG terminal in Revithoussa, one of the 24 LNG terminals in the European Union and the only one in South-Eastern Europe, has been operating continuously since the early 2000s, and has been receiving LNG imports based on long-term contracts mostly from Algeria, as well as imports from the spot market. After its recent upgrade, it further contributes to the security of energy supply and the operational flexibility of the transportation system, while guaranteeing supply sufficiency to neighboring countries as well. Meanwhile, the implementation of the FSRU in Alexandroupolis will offer a new LNG entry point and additional capacity of provision with significant quantities of natural gas for the Greek and regional markets.

Notably, another pillar of great importance for Greece’s energy policy and diplomacy is the exploration and exploitation of domestic reserves of hydrocarbons, a sector correlated to both energy security and economic development issues. Within the objective of exploration activity in new fields, Greece's diplomatic missions abroad contribute in attracting the interest of international energy groups.

In the rapidly developing RES sector, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitors new market trends and directions at domestic, European and international level (eg IRENA), while consulting with various stakeholders at all levels. Since our country possesses impressive know-how, a duty of the Offices for Economic and Commercial Affairs of Greek Embassies is to promote the expansion of the Greek RES sector to foreign markets, by providing every appropriate assistance. In reference to the national renewable energy targets for 2030, their implementation will contribute to the formation of a strong business development framework, allowing Greece to exploit its natural potential in RES technologies, to maximize their participation in the "energy mix", to pursue energy saving and to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving these goals will further secure energy supply, allow an optimal use of natural resources and straighten the competitiveness of key sectors of the Greek economy.

In conclusion, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitors all international developments, agreements and trends in the field of energy, as they greatly influence geopolitical relations and render our country’s energy sector a lever of economic growth. Through our Diplomatic Missions abroad, issues raised in international and regional energy organizations are followed, allowing our country to participate in every decision making process on the global and European energy future.