Euro-Mediterranean Energy Cooperation and the Newly Established Platform for Gas

October 13, 2015 | 00:00
Euro-Mediterranean Energy Cooperation and the Newly Established Platform for Gas
Euro-Mediterranean Energy Cooperation and the Newly Established Platform for Gas
An Exclusive Interview with Dr Houda Ben Jannet Allal, the Secretary General of the OME (Observatoire Méditerranéen de l'Energie), by the Greek Energy Forum.

"We have come together because we share a common goal of delivering a stable, secure and thriving Mediterranean gas market that gives people across the region secure, competitive and sustainable energy. This goal has always been at the heart of EU energy policy, and has truly taken centre stage in our Energy Union strategy. I am committed to fully exploiting the benefits of furthering Euro-Mediterranean cooperation on energy issues” – these were the words of the EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete at the launch of the UfM’s (Union for the Mediterrenean) Euro-Mediterranean Platform for Gas which took place this summer in Brussels.

The energy cooperation in South-East Europe and the Mediterranean has indeed been high on the EU agenda over the last couple of months with new platforms being established and wide range of stakeholders from the region coming on board.

The Euro-Mediterranean Platform for Gas is the first of the three platforms planned (two other ones - on regional electricity markets, and renewables and energy efficiency – were launched following the visit of EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete to Algeria and Morocco in May 2015).

These regional platforms are envisaged to be instrumental for facilitating and enhancing energy cooperation between the EU and South and East Mediterranean countries.

With support of the OME , the Gas Platform is expected to strengthen security of gas supply in the region by promoting regional cooperation around gas exploration and production, by supporting the development of necessary infrastructure and by reinforcing regional gas trade exchanges, making the Mediterranean basin a major gas marketplace in the future.

Following to the launch, the Greek Energy Forum’s Brussels Branch has conducted the interview with Dr Houda Ben Jannet Allal, the Secretary General of the OME, in which Dr Houda Allal shared her views on some highly topical questions regarding the newly established UfM's Platform for Gas, as well as the future of energy cooperation in the Mediterranean.

Following the UfM gas platform’s launch in June, what are the next steps in terms of platform’s development? As the terms of reference were not agreed in the last meeting, how optimistic can one be that previous objections can be surpassed?

First, we shall say that the terms of reference were agreed at the last ad-hoc SOM meeting held in July in Barcelona (this is the formal endorsement). They are now named "working guidelines" which means that they can be reviewed periodically in the future in the light of the progress of the function of the platform and of the level of achievement of its objectives.

Now, in terms of Platform development, the programme is very clear: first the background report on gas will be finalized shortly; second a work programme is being prepared on the basic of the contributions from actors in the Platform. Similarly we are considering events that the platform could set in order to promote a shared view on the common future of gas in the Mediterranean Region.

Do you see synergies between
1) the UfM gas platform and the CESEC high level working group (working group set up for South-East europe by the EU Commission bringing together member states, project promoters, NRA's and EU) and
2) the UfM gas platform and the Association of Mediterranean Energy Regulators (MEDREG) (MEDREG's Working Group on Gas in particular).

As it concerns CESEC first, this initiative which covers the further development and strengthening of gas infrastructure in Central and South-Eastern Europe is set in the specific context of this area to contribute to gas supply security (by enabling the countries of this region to receive gas from more than one gas source and not depending on a single provider). Therefore, in the broader context of the UfM Platform on Gas, exchange of information, cooperation on initiatives will certainly be developed. However, the MoU which sets CESEC has just been signed during the summer and no contact has been made yet.

Concerning MEDREG, you may have noticed that the Mediterranean regulators association has been fully involved in the development of the UfM platforms and is fully entitled as a stakeholder in the UfM Platform on Gas. And clearly, regulatory framework is one of the key elements of the Platform focus areas.

How do you envisage the overall role of the UfM gas platform in facilitating the creation of the Mediterranean Gas Hub? 

Working on the potential role of Mediterranean Gas Hubs is one of the main aims of the UfM Platform on Gas. It is proposed that a specific working group will focus on that issue: the concept, its pertinence for the region, its possible ways of implementation. Since the UfM Platform on Gas gathers all the relevant stakeholders, its guidelines and recommendations will surely be taken into account by the UfM Member States.

Do you see some challenges in ensuring the cohesion of work across the platforms that focus on energy in the South-East Europe and Euro-Med cooperation? Is there a way to avoid overlapping initiatives?

Let us recall some elements. The Euro Mediterranean ministerial meeting in Rome, in November 2014, has set 3 regional platforms: one on gas, one on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and one on regional electricity market. They have been put under the Union for Mediterranean umbrella. Their aim is to facilitate a dialog in between all type of actors of the energy scene in an informal but structured manner: such a dialog should yield proposals for projects or regional policies.

Clearly, the development of a regional sustainable energy system should take benefit of the work of the three platforms. And allow me, now to speak as OME General Director. In this perspective we have proposed to set a regular regional energy event based on the contribution of the three platforms. This could be in the form of a biennial Mediterranean Energy Days.

Previous attempts at forging stronger relationships in the field of energy in the Mediterranean have faced some challenges due to competing interests as well as geopolitical intractable issues, such as the Cyprus problem. Could the UfM gas platform help facilitate win-win solutions for such cases and what would be the practical ways of providing them?

As the UfM Platform on Gas is not a political gathering, such a question will not be considered for debate. Rather, the debates will cover issues related to the development of resources and of the energy systems, looking for a global benefit, focusing on contributions to the economy and to a sustainable development. Such debates should create an inspiration for cooperation in project development.

How do you view the evolving situation in the Eastern Mediterranean - with particular focus on developments in Egypt (Zohr discovery), as well as Israel and Cyprus?

East Mediterranean is already regarded as a focus point in the proposed Platform work program. The importance of the gas discoveries and their potential contribution to the east Mediterranean energy security and also to the European gas supply security have already been mentioned in the platform background report which is in the process of finalization.

The debates within the gas platform should make a real contribution to the analysis of the optimal development of these resources, how they can deliver benefits to the countries involved and contribute to the regional energy security. This analysis should yield proposals for possible infrastructure options, and their respective benefits and also market integration and increasing gas exchanges.

How feasible would you think is it to proceed with so-called 'Euro-Mediterranean projects of common interest' that are mentioned in the draft UfM terms of reference?

One of the objectives of the UfM Platform on Gas as set in the terms of reference is to identify energy projects of common interest of UfM Members and highlight needs in terms of developing Mediterranean domestic and sub-regional energy markets. Because of the multi-stakeholders structure of the platform, such identified projects would benefit both suppliers and consumers wherever they may be.

Furthermore, since such projects will come out of debates in between the stakeholders in a bottom up approach which will review regulatory, technical and economics issues, they will create strong interest for their implementation and financing.

This is what we will strive for in all cases!

This article is part of the knowledge partnership between European Energy Review and the Greek Energy Forum a group of energy professionals sharing common interest in the broader energy industry in Greece and South-eastern Europe. Follow Greek Energy Forum on Twitter @GrEnergyForum

Loading comments...
related items