Romania cannot rely on a single source of energy to solve the problem of a stable energy mix and maintaining the stability of the national energy system, says Elena Popescu, General Manager, Ministry of Energy.
“We would like to have higher renewable targets, but the setting of targets was made on the basis of assumptions that refer both to the estimation of economic growth and implicit consumption, and to the correlation with the necessary investments in grids, for balancing and storage capacities.
Maintaining energy capacities with significant contribution to maintaining energy security in Romania during the transition to decarbonization is another factor that has been taken into account in writing the draft of the Integrated National Plan for Energy and Climate Change (PNIESC). This is in consultation this year, since starting last December. All recommendations and opinions are taken into account. In setting of targets, we started from the energy consumption that we would have in 2030. As a premise, we considered the elements and strategic aspects that Romania has in the energy field. Maintaining a balanced mix is a desideratum that relies on both the energy resources we have, the experience of very cold winters and the high temperature summers – when it is clear that a single source of energy does not solve the energy problem in Romania“, said Elena Popescu at the 2019 Energy Strategy Summit, an event organized by energynomics.ro.
At the same time, the geopolitical situation of Romania must also be taken into account. “It is not fair to compare Romania from the energy point of view with Western European states. There, all states are in the European Union, and they apply the same rules. In addition, they have different climatic conditions against us – they do not face extreme temperatures as we are facing… We all have seen from the past experience the winter situations when the coal really has functioned and it played a significant role in ensuring energy security and when we could not rely on either renewable or gas because of the low system pressure – we were depending on coal,” Popescu said.
Romania needs an Energy Strategy as quickly as possible
The lack of Energy Strategy has affected the smooth running of departments within the executive. “At least at the level of our Technical Directorate, indeed, the lack of a strategy pressed us the most in these years. Because, irrespective of whether we worked on the position of Romania in the field of energy at the Council of the European Union, or that some decisions had to be made regarding the energy capacities or the functioning of the national energy system. It’s a complicated, complex subject. Unfortunately, in our debates, we seem to not listening to each other, sometimes, and it seems like we refuse to see the reality and context we are in… We are at the moment when we have not to lie ourselves anymore. We have to not avoid the subject of phasing-out coal. The European and humankind orientation is towards decarbonization, which means fossil fuels’ share must be reduced. That does not mean we’re closing the coal tomorrow or in five or ten years. However, we need to plan as much as possible the reduction in the share of coal in order to identify solutions to replace these capacities with those based on low-carbon technologies, so that Romania’s energy security will not be affected. The social side must be approached with the utmost responsibility.
There is Germany’s example, which has imposed itself a deadline for phasing-out coal in 2038 – but it has a federal decision-making Committee in this area and it discusses all issues with operators, with public opinion, with all the main actors in the energy system in order for the transition to be sustainable and bearable for affected areas. They are planning now and in 2032 they will have a new assessment to see if the decision to phase out coal can be made in 2035 – three years earlier”, Popescu added.
Many voices claim that energy independence does not make sense for Romania, whose energy system operates in an integrated European market. “For Romania, a country at the border of the European Union, energy independence still has its valences. When we consider all these aspects, we need to plan very carefully our schedule of closing existing capacities. And when we plan closure capacities that no longer meet environmental requirements and are morally and technically obsolete, in all respects – let’s be clear, I am not talking about upgraded capacities that can function for the years to come, I refer to those obsolete units, which, anyway, work for just a limited number of hours per year and which do not respect environmental conditions – once closed, we need to identify as soon as possible what else will replace them.”
RES target was estimated based on the expected consumption
The 27.9% RES target was estimated based on the expected consumption, as presented by the National Prognosis Commission, and on the technical and economic development potential. The Energy Ministry took into account the energy consumption when calculating the renewable energy share of 27.9% for 2030, with keeping the coal capacities.
“That share represents in real terms an increase of the wind and photovoltaic installed capacity. It does not mean we will have no new installed capacity in renewable energy. It not only means maintaining existing capacities, but also developing new units and refurbishing existing ones. On the other hand, 27.9% is not such a small share compared to what the other member states proposed. Romania has made a huge effort by 2020, compared to other Member States, and this effort was supported by the Romanian consumer. I believe – and so I also said in Brussels – it is time for richer states than us to undertake a higher growth pace on renewable energies. I have also seen the drafts of the Integrated Plans of the other member states. We’re not too bad! Of course, there were opinions – the Commission even told us that it have expected Romania to come with a bigger share. Indeed, based on the increase in consumption, the share seems to be low, although in real terms it means capacity increase both on wind and on photovoltaic – in Romania, therefore, the capacities installed in the renewable sector will expand”.
Massive investments are needed
The Energy Ministry has received market recommendations in respect to the PNIESC. “We received recommendations from the market, we analyzed them, we evaluated them. I would like representatives of the different energy fields – renewable, coal, hydro, nuclear – to see the energy system as an integrated one – and not only from the perspective of each sector they represent, the primary resource they represent. I would like to see more solidarity. Let’s see what we can do to maintain a balanced energy mix that is decarbonizing, but using all the available resources that can help achieve our goals for energy security and climate change mitigation. Maintaining this mix has demonstrated its importance in crisis situations, including when states in the region have turned to energy imports from Romania,” Popescu said.
“It is very possible to increase this share (of renewable, e.n.), following the recommendations we receive from the Commission (that have been received after the 2019 Energy Strategy Summit conference, e.n.), based on a re-evaluation of consumption level in 2030. But it is important to invest in new capacities, based on low carbon technologies. In addition, we need investment in infrastructure, grids, balancing, storage, smart grid capabilities, interconnection with markets in the region included. There is a need for investment across the energy value chain, but we also need to take into account the consumer supportability,” she said, adding that the nuclear project is essential for Romania in achieving decarbonization and energy security objectives.