Ukraine crisis highlighted challenges and vulnerabilities today’s energy industry faces. Central and East European regional dependence on resources imported from unstable regions, cyber threats, EU’s emphasis on green energy projects and further regulation leading to deformed prices – all that was part of what Mirek Topolánek, former Czech prime minister addressed, during his March 10 visit in Bratislava-based think-tank CEPI and its sister organization SAC. As an honorary guest, he participated on a debate series entitled #GLOBSEC Chat, led by CEPI’s director Milan Nič.
In spite of EU’s effort to regulate and push European market to green energies, Mr. Topolánek as energy expert doesn’t expect much change in the energy mix. Oil peak is not in sight, fossil fuels supply is sufficient and coal, oil and natural gas will remain the most important energy resources even in 21st century. Mr. Topolánek also stressed, that even overpriced oil extraction is still economically more viable than endowed green resources.
So what did the Strategy 20-20-20 brought to Europe? According to former Czech PM on one hand only a little progress in the energy industry shape, on the other hand it resulted in higher prices of energies and wide gap compared to real costs of its production. Ecologically friendly sources are therefore one of the factors, that cause instability, and lead to investment reluctance. This paralyses the energy industry and puts energy security at risk.
Conflict in eastern Ukraine just highlighted these aspects and manifested, how vulnerable and dependent are Central Europe and Western Balkans are to Russian gas supply. Nonetheless Mr. Topolánek presented a path that could make Europe stronger and give adequate response to dominance of the eastern bloc.
“Eastring could bring the continent one stop closer towards the single European gas market,” Mr. Topolánek pointed out. It gives the Western Balkans new access to European HUBs and contributes therefore to competition and lower prices. It also diversifies the routes in Eastern Europe, which consequently lowers the risks in the situation of single source gas import interruptions.
Mr. Topolánek also mentioned the positive effects that Eastring project could have on Slovakia and Central Europe. According to the former prime minister, new pipeline represents the most “economic and environmentally friendly solution” to provide capacity to serve European demand efficiently and it utilizes maximum of the existing infrastructure – including the compressor station in Veľké Kapušany on the border with Ukraine.
Former Czech PM also reminded of the new risks that currently became more visible and could endanger energy security. Although it may seem improbable, even a single hacker could imperil great energy players such as nation states. Moreover to locate the attacker through technology means can prove to be almost impossible. Therefore Mr. Topolánek stressed the necessity of higher cyber security even in the energy industry.