ECONOMY

Balkans need energy investment

The European commissioner for energy said on Friday in Athens that Southeastern Europe could solve its chronic energy shortages by cutting down on waste in consumption and cross-border connections rather than by generating new supplies. But Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said that doing so required major investments in efficiency-boosting projects such as upgrading power plants and promoting household insulation. «We need investment in energy efficiency and energy end-use. That is the basic difficulty we face in this region,» he said. «Curbing consumption is the key. If you just address supply, you will always be late.» Piebalgs was speaking to reporters at a conference promoting energy investment in Southeastern Europe, involving around 200 energy policy-makers from countries of the Energy Community, established last year. His comments also came after a summer of acute power shortages in the area, caused by high demand and reduced imports from key suppliers such as Bulgaria. Albania suffered daily power cuts. The Energy Community aims to create a common regulatory framework in Southeastern Europe, which would boost investment and link the region with the EU’s internal market in natural gas and electricity. While the EU encourages investments, Piebalgs said, the private sector should put up the funds – with fortune favoring the brave. «Energy investments are so profitable… It is the best return of investments that you could expect in today’s world,» particularly in a fast-growing market at a major geographical crossroads. Southeastern Europe expects growth of up to 6 percent this year. The region’s other problem, he said, was a «massive amount» of energy lost through poor cross-border power transmission. «Partially, you can solve (the issue) if you can solve the congestion issues on the border, because that is a major bottleneck… You don’t need to build new generational capacity or new power lines.» Separately, Christos Folias, whose Greek Development Ministry hosted the gathering, said the long-awaited natural gas pipeline between Greece and Turkey would be working next month. The Greece-Turkey interconnector will pipe up to 11 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year to Greece and Europe, once a separate leg to Italy – known as Poseidon – is completed in 2011. «These investments offer energy security for our country and the whole region… Greece will be transformed into an energy hub in Southeastern Europe,» said Folias. (AP)