Why Moldova’s Energy Independence from Russia Is a Farce

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Victor ENI
Despite the great sums spent on ensuring “energy independence” from Russia, Moldova continues to be supplied with Russian energy resources. In addition, the authorities’ intention to maintain relations with Gazprom is becoming more and more evident
The upcoming elections force the authorities to look for ways to ease the heavy tariff burden that was placed on the shoulders of ordinary voters last year. Alas, we still do not know at what prices the “energy-independent” gas was purchased, the cost of which is concealed under the pretext of commercial secrecy. Most likely, as long as Andrei Spinu and the business groups supporting him are in power, it is unlikely that they will reveal to us the full picture of how much energy independence from Russia has cost us and whether we have really reached it. By the way, something similar is observed in the European Union, where they proudly declare a sharp decline in imports of Russian pipeline gas. Meanwhile, statistics inexorably show that EU countries have significantly increased their consumption of Russian liquefied natural gas, which grew by 40% in the first 7 months of this year. These figures make Russia the second LNG supplier to the EU after the US. It is supposed that in the short term, the EU won’t be able to completely abandon Russian gas supplies and, one way or another, will be dependent on it. The same is happening with the purchase of gas for our needs. In order to exclude any energy cooperation with Moscow, Moldovan suppliers will purchase appropriate volumes of gas from the Greek company DEPA Commercial, which will cover a significant part of the winter demand. However, it is known that the Greeks buy fuel directly from Gazprom with a contract until 2026. Amidst this, Energy Minister Victor Parlicov claims, as if nothing happened, that for the first time in history Moldova enters the cold season with such large gas reserves. That’d be fine, but the only thing left is to understand at what price the end consumer will receive it. After all, forecasts indicate that the market price of gas will not even minimally reduce the current tariff for citizens. The meeting of the governmental commission for coordinating preparations for the winter season was also not especially optimistic, since Prime Minister Dorin Recean instructed the responsible bodies to develop a plan for supplying the population with firewood. It is scary to imagine what will happen to our officials if, for instance, the price of Russian gas falls below the market price, while relations with Gazprom seem to be deliberately destroyed. However, the day before, the Russian press reported that Chisinau offered Gazprom an amicable agreement under which the Russian monopolist would cancel all the debts of the right bank. In turn, our authorities guarantee the absence of lawsuits due to the reduction of gas supplies by 160 million dollars and are ready to pay the Russian monopolist 153.57 million dollars as compensation for the earlier tariff deviations. As is known, the Russians are demanding to pay more than 700m dollars in debt. It is unlikely that such an original scheme can arouse Gazprom’s financial interest, so the proposed terms will not lead to an amicable agreement. Most likely, of the available options, Moscow is considering only full payment of debts. Therefore, if a principled readiness is expressed, the Russian Federation can be expected to take different approaches to resolving the situation. Despite all of Recean’s bravura statements that there are no debts, such a hidden address to Moscow with the expression of readiness for a “debt deal” seems to indicate our authorities’ intention to start communicating with Gazprom. Including if there is an interesting gas price. Therefore, we can assume that the story with foreign auditors was nothing more than a spectacle to strain Moldovan-Russian relations in the energy sector and enter into negotiations with Moscow from a more favorable starting position. The near future will show to what extent such an original idea of government strategists will work. But the fact that Moldova is interested in maintaining relations with Gazprom, despite all the “victories” on the energy independence fronts, is becoming more and more obvious. The contract with the Russian gas monopoly is also important in terms of electricity supplies. For this reason, Energy Minister Victor Parlicov firmly states that Moldova does not intend to terminate the agreements with Gazprom, although he does not rule out that Moscow may unilaterally stop supplies. In such a scenario, Chisinau will face several complex problems at once, such as the need to find alternative sources and supply the left bank to overcome the socio-economic crisis in the region. Apparently, in order to prevent such an undesirable development, the authorities are already signaling, primarily to the Russian side, their readiness to conclude a long-term contract with the Cuciurgan power station. The parliament has extended the state of emergency on the entire country’s territory for another 60 days, and it is possible to do this in derogation of the current legislation. Although nominally Chisinau negotiates with Tiraspol on the issue of electricity, it is obvious that the final formula is made up of various components, each of which has a direct or indirect connection with Moscow. Speaking about electricity imports, it is worth mentioning that recently the State Service for Verification and Expertise of Projects and Structures approved the technical project for the construction of a 400 kV overhead power transmission line “Vulcanesti – Chisinau”. The line will have the capacity to cover up to 50% of the country’s electricity consumption during the peak load period. Construction works are planned to be completed in 2025. It may seem that Moldova’s continuing energy dependence on Russia will be significantly reduced with the construction of this route. But, as it turned out, the new energy line will only lead to a reduction in technical dependence, because today the electricity goes through the Isaccea -Vulcanesti line, passing through the nodes of Cuciurgan power station after which it reaches Chisinau. In other words, Moldova will be energy-independent only from Ukraine, and if the Balti – Suceava line is also built, our country will become part of the European ENTSO-E continental energy system, separate from the neighboring country. Looking at what’s been happening over the last year, we come to a sad conclusion: this whole story of Moldova’s “energy decolonization” looks like continuous political farce. It has nothing to do with the interests of the country and its citizens, and has led to an unjustified increase in tariffs for the population and huge overpayments for supplies. The officials, advisers and other fraudsters behind this experiment on Moldova must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for the damage caused to the country.