Will Neighbors Help Moldova in Winter?

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Christian RUSSU
The authorities are either too naive, or not completely sincere, when they seriously tell the population about the possibility of completely replacing Russian energy resources with supplies from Romania and Ukraine
Although winter is nearing, the gas issue is still far from being resolved. In a TV interview for the Russian-speaking audience, Maia Sandu reiterated that Russia could leave us without gas. The authorities keep convincing the population that Russia is not a reliable partner for Moldova and can cut its gas supply at any time for political reasons. The fact that the condition of the contract signed by Andrei Spinu last year to audit the right bank’s historical debts by May 1 has not been met is somehow ignored. As well as the fact that Moscow has already taken a step forward and extended the deadline to October 1. Sandu is now “twisting things around”, saying that there is no such date in the contract, and that this is all political blackmail. The defiant confidence and cold calculation with which Russia’s “malicious plans” are exposed must seem to show our government’s courage and strength to resist the Kremlin’s unfriendly policy. Moreover, Maia Sandu made a courageous assumption that if Gazprom stops supplying gas to Moldova from October 1, we will be able to get it from Romania. As for Transdniestria, which is critically dependent on “free” Russian gas, in this case it is offered to pay in advance at market prices. However, there is a risk of stopping the import of cheap electricity from the left bank, but even here the government has everything “covered”: there is an alternative of Ukrainian electricity, albeit at a much higher price. The “marathon of enthusiasm” on passing the heating season successful without Russian gas was to be continued by Natalia Gavrilita's recent visit to Romania. Staying in Bucharest, at a meeting with her Romanian counterpart, the Prime Minister frankly admitted that there are needs to ensure the energy security of our country thanks to Romania. “The number one priority for the Moldovan government is to safely survive the approaching winter,” Gavrilita said. At the end, it was stated that politicians discussed storing natural gas in Romanian storages, the need for more firewood, and the participation of Romanian companies in tenders organized by Termoelectrica for the purchase of fuel oil. The authorities may radiate optimism and confidence, but this has little reassurance for ordinary citizens. The recent scandal with the organization of preferential supplies of firewood to the population through Moldsilva agency and Lemne.md special portal, which has already resulted in the resignation of Minister of Environment Iuliana Cantaragiu, demonstrates an unpleasant reality. Against this background, the turnover of the black market for firewood and the scale of illegal logging have multiplied. The Moldsilva agency itself actively “recycles” the forest fund and sells the wood at three times the announced price. The harvested five warehouses with timber will clearly not be enough, even given the meager quota of 3 to 5 cubic meters per household. Environmentalists believe the country will be left without forests this winter, and it will take 20 years to restore them. No one seems to care about what to cut down next winter. By the way, by September 9, the Ministry of Agriculture was supposed to present its vision on buying firewood in Romania, but even after a week there is no information about the results of this work. There is also no information about the tenders for purchasing fuel oil to create strategic reserves in case gas supplies from Russia are cut off. The Prime Minister’s call to Romanian companies to participate in these tenders speaks in itself that the building of the necessary reserves of alternative fuel is going on very shakily. “Suddenly” there were also difficulties with the transportation of fuel oil from Romania. The traditional railroad route between Cahul and Giurgiulesti is blocked because of problems with the railroad laid during the presidency of Vladimir Voronin. The only alternative could be transportation by transit through Ukraine along the route Basarabeasca – Etulia – Reni – Giurgiulesti. There is also trouble with the supply of gas from Romania. Prime Minister Nicolae-Ionel Cucă assured Gavrilita encouragingly at the meeting that Bucharest is making every effort to find solutions for the supply, transit and storage of the necessary volume of gas for Moldova. Which can be understood as a lack of any ready-made solutions. Despite achieving the limits of gas storage filling (80%) required by the European Commission, Romania has already begun to identify the categories of consumers that will have to be sacrificed because of the energy price situation. “We will not be able to save all industry and all segments of the economy. And this should be stated explicitly,” acknowledged Deputy Prime Minister Kelemen Hunor. Another sign of the Romanian authorities’ concern about the upcoming cold period is the clear position that if a price cap is introduced, it should not only apply to Russian gas, otherwise the remaining suppliers in the market will simply take advantage of the situation and raise the price. Arguing their position in the EU, Romanian officials have already had to fend off accusations that they are resisting Brussels’ decision to limit the price of blue fuel from Russia. So instead of continuing to blame the only gas supplier for now, our authorities should do some real work. For example, the audit of the historical debt, which for some reason no one hurries to carry out. More than a month has passed since the contract to conduct it was signed with the Norwegian company Wikborg Rein Advokatfirma A.S. and the British Forencis Risc Aliance & Co Limited. However, the Cabinet of Ministers has not yet allocated money for it. However, such inactivity in these matters has already become the norm. The first tender for an audit was announced in January, and after its failure no one even tried to organize a re-tender before May 1. The authorities did not bother to do it until six months later, in July, effectively presenting Gazprom with a fait accompli. Another thing about electricity. As we prepare to replace imports from the left bank with supplies from Ukraine and Romania, we should remember that despite the technical synchronization of networks with the European transmission system, neighboring countries still have questions about how their power systems will cope with the load in the fall and winter period. After the complete shutdown of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, from which it was planned to export to Moldova and the EU, as well as the recent blackouts in entire regions of Ukraine due to missile attacks, to rely unconditionally on a complete transition to Ukrainian electricity is, at the very least, odd and rather unwise. It is up to us to analyze the state and stability of our energy system under all scenarios. I would like to believe that the final decisions on who and how will provide us with heat and light this winter will be made after a comprehensive analysis and consideration of all associated risks, not just geopolitical considerations. The authorities themselves are setting an example. Thus, the day before it became known that under the pretext of “provision of state energy security” Termoelectrica is urgently working to connect the administrative buildings of the Government, the Presidency and other bodies to the central heating system. That is, government officials and deputies have already guaranteed themselves alternative sources of heat in case of force majeure. Maybe we should also take good care of the average citizen.