Romania aims for energy independence in response to war in Ukraine
The Romanian government wants to transform the country’s energy infrastructure and energy mix in order to achieve energy independence, but experts warn of the problems that remain, while environmental groups demand a greater role for renewable energies.
Last year, 45% of Romania’s primary energy consumption was supplied by imports, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics. The country depends on Russian imports for 29% of its gas consumption and for a quarter of its fuel imports, according to the Association for Intelligent Energy in Romania.
Transgaz, the operator of Romania’s natural gas transmission network, said annual consumption ranged between 11 and 12 billion cubic meters (bcm) and could increase by another eight billion a year.
However, the Ministry of Energy said that Romania is one of the states least dependent on Russian gas, as neither the Romanian state nor companies have a contract with Gazprom. However, there are intermediaries of the Russian company that sell gas in Romania.
“The vulnerability of a country is not only given by the quantity it imports in a year, but by the importance of the maximum consumption in an hour/day, what are the stored hourly resources on which you can rely if you don’t have import gas, what are the immediate energy alternatives a consumer can use in the event of a gas shortage and especially if import is the source that is going to throw you off balance”said Dumitru Chisăliță, president of the Association for Intelligent Energy (AEI).
The situation could change later this year, when the extraction of the 200 billion cubic meters of Black Sea gas reserve comes into effect. A law passed last month giving the government a right of first refusal to buy.
More than a third of Romania’s electricity production is provided by hydropower, followed by coal and wind power (about 16% each), fossil fuels with 14.3%, and the contribution of nuclear and solar power just over 7% each.
“Due to the current low growth of renewables in the country, projections indicate that Romania will not reach the EU target of 32% renewables by 2030, even if their actual share in the energy mix is already 25%”indicates the 2022 Climate Change Performance Index, which recommends that politicians accelerate their ambitions, given that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) provides for the phasing out of lignite and hard coal by 2032.
The Romanian government expects 16 billion euros in EU funds until 2030 to develop its energy sector as part of the transition to an environmentally friendly economy and to combat the effects of climate change.
The European Modernization Fund is supporting 10 low-income Member States in their transition to carbon neutrality and could provide an additional €1.1 billion to strengthen the energy distribution network.
The European Commission has already approved €2.66 billion in restructuring aid for the country’s third-largest electricity producer, Oltenia Energy Complex, to replace lignite-based electricity generation with electricity produced using natural gas and renewable energies (1.2 GW of combined cycle turbines and 725 MW of photovoltaic energy).
The funds will also be used to upgrade the power line near the Black Sea, to enable the installation of an additional 600 MW of renewable energy in this region.
Romania has allocated 1.6 billion euros to the energy sector in its national recovery plan adopted following the COVID-19 pandemic. This amount includes €460 million for renewable energy production, €300 million for high-efficiency cogeneration and €200 million for integrated generation capacity of batteries and photovoltaic panels.
Despite everything, the president of the AEI remains pessimistic.
“Even if we manage to produce renewable energy for all national consumption, we will still be dependent on imported technologies”he told EURACTIV.
From strategy to reality
Romania’s Integrated National Plan in the Field of Energy and Climate Change (PNIESC) proposes 5.1 GWh of solar capacity and 5.3 GWh of wind capacity by the end of the decade and to increase the number of energy prosumers.
Cristian Bușoi, the Romanian chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), also believes that society has an important role to play through national programs and the strategy on energy. EU solar energy.
“Romania has taken important steps towards energy independence at planning, policy and strategic levels. We need to make sure that this also happens in practice, as the country unfortunately does not have a brilliant project implementation capacity”the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) MEP told EURACTIV.
According to him, these investments take effort, but EU funds and low-interest loans cover most of it.
“With the law on offshore exploration, we will have, in 2026-2027, significant quantities of gas that will not only ensure energy independence, but also help neighboring countries”added Bușoi, also recalling Romania’s nuclear energy projects and the possibility of using heat pumps for communal heating systems, which could be a solution for the capital.
Market sources reported that Romania’s largest natural gas producers, Romgaz and OMV Petrom, plan to invest in a joint project to produce hydrogen at a wind farm near the Black Sea, while Transgaz is considering a investment of 626 million euros in the construction of pipelines for the transport of hydrogen.
A report commissioned by the European Union on hydrogen mentions a project to produce more than 80,000 tons of green hydrogen per year in the Romanian region of Dobrogea and export it to Austria and Germany on the Danube.
Speaking to EURACTIV, the energy transition campaign coordinator said that if the Romanian government wants to make energy affordable, it must boost energy efficiency investments, such as housing renovation programmes, target vulnerable consumers, installing renewable energy generation technologies and prioritizing renewables, while upgrading the electricity grid.
“Romania has huge offshore wind potential that should be exploited. These measures would help avoid increasing the country’s dependence on fossil gases and meet its climate and energy commitments.”she concluded.