Europe

Tapping Black Sea’s renewable energy seen bringing bonanza

BUCHAREST – The Black Sea region has a huge energy potential, both in terms of the onshore developments of the 6 countries but also for off-shore wind, estimated at more than 450 GW of technical off-shore wind. But this energy potential of the Black Sea is still unexploited, Romanian Energy Center (CRE) Vice President Frank Hajdinjak said in Bucharest.

At the Energy Week Black Sea 2021 conference on September 28, Hajdinjak stressed the Black Sea needs to develop its energy potential in order to ensure its relevance in the international arena, increase the economic value for its businesses and boost the wellbeing of its citizens.

On September 30, we paid a technical visit to the Verbund wind farm near the Rahmanu village in Casimcea, southwest Romania, not far from the Black Sea coast. The Verbund wind farm, which was put into operation in 2013 is one of the largest onshore windfarms of Europe with a 225 MW capacity.

Inside Ventus N2 12, one of the 88 turbines that feed into Transelectrica’s network, Daniel Gaescu, operation manager of the wind park, told New Europe there are 88 turbines that was at the time producing 800-900KW at the time out of its 3MW capacity.

He said the wind farm is helping Romania’s energy transition. “For sure we need to replace the coal. We need to do more. We were expecting this. Now we are forced to do this faster than the authorities expected,” he said. Gaescu added that Romania is still importing a lot of electricity.

A day earlier at the Black Sea energy conference. the Romanian Energy Center VP highlighted the importance of regional networks integration. “What is happening now across Europe. The health and economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much present, energy prices are registering historically high levels and the issues of security of energy imports and transport routes are picking up momentum in the wake of the cold season,” Hajdinjak said.

However, we are faced with huge opportunities in terms of large financial packages available for the rest of the decade, renewable energy generation technology is already very cost effective in relation to fossil fuels-based generation and the investment climate is positive. Together with stable and predictable policy and regulatory frameworks, we might be able to achieve the ambitious energy and climate targets by 2030. The timeframe seems far ahead, but the challenge is massive and will require a joint effort from all stakeholders, policy, businesses, associations, universities, society and so on,” Hajdinjak said.

He noted that despite the increase in energy efficiency and the impact of the pandemic, the global energy consumption is set on an upward curve, together with the related emissions. “So far we are failing the Paris Agreement’s commitments to limit the increase in global temperature, reason to increase our levels of ambition and courage, in an effort to allow the future generations to enjoy the things we have enjoyed while growing up,” he said.

Focusing on Romania, he said the country has an over generation capacity on paper. From the 20.000 MW of installed generation capacity, Romania has a production output of no more than 6-7000 MWh.

The generation portfolio in Romania is old and pollutant. He noted that Romania has a vast transport and distribution network, yet old and inefficient, with losses twice the EU’s average – 12%.

Romania managed to absorb only 50% of the non-refundable funds from the EU. “Romania must better take advantage of its European Union connection,” he said.

Historically high energy prices, up to 3 times higher at electricity and 5 times higher at natural gas, he said, adding that the carbon certificate price is over 60 euro/tCO2 which increases the price of electricity by 54 euro/MWh – equals the entire production cost from 2018.

According to Hajdinjak, Romania should finalise the offshore laws to take advantage of its Black Sea potential – offshore natural gas reserves which double the on-shore deposits. The off-shore wind technical potential is estimated by the World Bank to 22 GW in fixed turbines out of the 94 GW of total potential natural capacity.

The Balkan country should also develop a better framework for prosumers. Moreover, it should decide quickly on big investments: natural gas from the Black Sea, reactors 3 and 4 from Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant, other large generation capacity using natural gas which is agreed to be a transition fuel together with hydrogen, Hajdinjak said.

Romania should also finalise the National Plan for Reconstruction and Resilience and use the funds to their entire value – the money need to be spent by mid 2026, so not much time is available.

Hajdinjak called on Romania to fully integrate the European legislation into the national legal and regulatory framework and avoid any penalties for missing the deadlines.

Romania has met its targets till 2020, but the new targets to 2030 are challenging: up to 38% renewable energy (from 24% today), 43.9% lower ETS emissions and 55% overall lower emissions, he said, warning that the challenge is massive and time is running out.

Finally, Hajdinjak said Romania should upskill and reskill the country’s human resource, making sure that the specialized workforce is not left behind.

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