Ionita: 80% of the Population Will Not Be Able to Pay for Gas

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Mass illegal logging awaits us at the end of the year, when the illegal sale of firewood can become a very profitable business, if we have a cold winter. However, those who have autonomous heating systems installed in their apartments will suffer the most. These predictions were made by Veaceslav Ionita, an expert in economics, reports Gazprom announced on Tuesday that it would reduce gas supplies through the Nord Stream pipeline to about 20% of its normal capacity, citing the fact that the turbine needs to be repaired. Some European leaders believe that the Russian company is actually trying to prevent Western countries from stockpiling gas for the winter in this way. On the same day, EU energy ministers decided to cut gas consumption by 15 percent in anticipation of a possible complete halt to Russia’s energy supply. Following these decisions, the price of gas on the European market rose to $2,300. When asked about the consequences of such a situation for Moldova, Veaceslav Ionita said that currently we have no reason to believe that we will not have gas in winter, but we have to worry about what the price of gas will be, because the decrease in the volume of Russian gas supplied is immediately reflected in the price on the exchange. “There is a risk of getting an excessively high price on the exchange, and it remains to be seen whether we will accept this price or still negotiate with the Russian Federation according to a certain formula: either change the calculation formula or change the winter-summer formula. But in today’s conditions it will be very difficult to negotiate with Russia, and we will find ourselves in an even more difficult situation. At any rate, if in the past years Moldova spent about 4 billion lei for one winter, now we will need 15 billion. This is a semi-optimistic version,” said Ionita. The expert notes that authorities must not forget 60 percent of families in Moldova are heated with firewood, while the poorest 10% of the population do not even know what gas or central heating is. Thus, the supply of firewood will be another very important problem, if the number of people switching from gas to wood heating also increases, it could lead to illegal logging. “Every year Moldsilva cuts about 450 thousand cubic meters of wood, which it sells to the poor at a very low price, 700-800 lei per cubic meter. This is a ridiculous amount, because if we divide it among 680 thousand families without gas or central heating, it is not even one cubic meter per family and people consume at least 5 cubic meters during the winter. That is why poor people freeze in winter, live in the small rooms, and heat only at night and only with vegetable scraps. Usually for these people we need 3 million cubic meters for one winter. At the same time, we have about 270,000 families heated by gas, and I think many of them will switch to wood, which is already cheaper than gas. With the price of gas offered by ANRE, even if the price per cubic meter of firewood reaches 3000 lei, it will still be cheaper to heat with wood. In such conditions, we will forget everything that the forests mean for Moldova. Do you understand what a temptation it will be to go and cut down all the forest? That is why I am afraid to think about what this winter will bring,” the expert explained. Note that a month ago Moldsilva had more than 44,500 cubic meters of firewood in stock, which is six times less compared to the same period last year. Moldsilva representatives stated that demand for firewood increased sharply with the rise in gas prices and that the agency would sell more than 500,000 cubic meters of wood this year. Moreover, with the increase in gas prices, environmental inspectors have detected hundreds of cases of illegal logging. The situation is different in cities. For those who use centralized heating, fuel oil will be a better solution than gas, which is becoming more and more attractive today, said Veaceslav Ionita. But the most difficult it will be for those who have autonomous gas heating. “For families with apartments connected to central heating, the solution will be fuel oil. Now we only have strategic reserves of fuel oil, I do not think it is stocked, but it is still cheaper than gas. But the biggest problem will be faced by tens of thousands of families with individual gas heating, who will not be able to switch to either wood or fuel oil. If earlier these individually connected people spent less for gas than those who had centralized heating, this year the situation will be reversed”, – specified Ionita. According to the expert, another solution that some Moldovans could resort to during the cold season would be the installation of heat pumps in houses, which, however, also involves some risks. “Using such a pump instead of primitive resources, from one kilowatt of electricity you produce three kilowatts of heat, and from three kilowatts of electricity you produce as much heat as one cubic meter of gas. The problem is that you need three pumps in a three-room apartment. First of all, where are we going to get a million pumps? Second of all, our electric grid is designed to produce light, not heat, so it won’t hold up, it will simply explode,” Ionita warns. When asked how the 300-million-euro loan the EBRD has granted to Moldova for the purchase of gas from alternative sources could help us in case Gazprom stops supplying, the expert said that this money would not be enough: “Only 100 thousand euros out of 300 thousand euros are meant for the creation of a strategic gas reserve. With this money, in the best case we can buy 100 million cubic meters, our consumption amount in half a month. But now the price is so high that we can only buy 50 million cubic meters. That’s our consumption amount in 10 days.” “The biggest problem will be in the cities. If those who have central heating will somehow get out of it, those who have autonomous heating do not know what they will do. Now that the market price of gas is getting worse, 80 percent of Moldova’s population may not be able to pay for gas,” Ionita added. Point