Western companies should participate in managing the Ukrainian gas transit system, German Energy Envoy Peter Fischer told EURACTIV Slovakia at the SET Plan – Central European Energy Conference X in Bratislava.
Peter Fischer is Deputy Director General for Energy & Climate Policy and Export Control at the German Federal Foreign Office.
Fischer spoke to EURACTIV.sk’s Pavol Szalai.
Last April, you came to Bratislava to reassure the Slovaks about Nord Stream 2. There is still a lot of opposition to it in Central Europe. Has anything changed for Germany?
Actually, not much has changed. Nord Stream 2 is still not a project of the German government. Nord Stream 2 is 100% Gazprom-owned.
According to analysts, the change of the structure brings financial risks.
Can Gazprom build Nord Stream 2 by itself? That is a problem for Gazprom, not for the German government. The Nord Stream 2 company tells us they are moving forward according to plan.
My job as a German diplomat is make certain that any energy infrastructure project in the EU will be not seen as zero sum game. In the EU, we look after our common interest. We try to exercise solidarity between us. And the Energy Union means we look after our energy interests together. At the same time, projects do need to come from the market.
One of the big issues around Nord Stream 2 is the impact on gas transit through the Ukraine after 2019. In that aspect, we have developed some diplomatic activity with the Ukraine and Russia. Together with Slovakia, we are trying to ensure there is transit and there is a commercially viable model for that.
Do they trust German companies, which agreed to build Nord Stream 2 with Gazprom?
The idea is to involve a group of companies on the Ukrainian side, so that the Russians contract with Western companies for the gas transit. And a group of Western companies contracts with the Ukraine, so that we remove the element of distrust.
In order to ensure gas transit through the Ukraine, Western companies would make agreements with Ukrainian companies. Is it a kind of guarantee?
The idea is that the Western companies manage part of the transit system. They agree on that management with the Ukraine. And they agree with Russia about the details of the transit – volume and prices. That would be a way of taking it out of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
How would this solution be formalized?
It is still in a very early stage of an idea. Again, it is not a German project. Some companies are pursuing this idea. And we, as Germany, are trying to push it forward with the Ukraine and with Moscow. From the point of view of the European Union and Energy Union, it is very important there is continued transit through Ukraine.
The European Commission traditionally mediates between the Ukraine and Russia. Is it involved in this initiative?
How is the Commission involved? You said it is Berlin working with Moscow and Kiev.
It is an old idea to examine whether companies can insert themselves between the Russians and the Ukrainians. And there are ongoing talks between the Commission and some companies and the Ukraine and Russia.
Have you talked about this with Slovak diplomats as well?
Do you sense support for this idea?
Yes, there is a support for the idea from Slovakia, because, of course, the transit from the Ukraine arrives in Slovakia. We know there is a Slovak essential interest and we are doing our best to promote that.
Do you expect a decision on the part of the German regulator on the Nord Stream 2, the Bundesnetzagentur or any other?
The Budnesnetzagentur clearly decides on its own without an influence from the government. I have to admit, I am not sure which decision is coming up now.
Is phasing out coal still a goal for Germany?
Yes. By the second week of the Marrakech conference, we adopted the climate change plan 2050. We were on the first countries to submit it at the UNFCCC.
In the global community of 195 parties, it was very well received. The plan says: By 2050 we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95%. This means by 2050 we will be greenhouse-gas neutral and we will have decarbonised our energy system.
In Germany, we have already decoupled growth from energy use and from greenhouse gas emissions. And quite substantially. Our GDP growth since 1990 is 45%. The use of energy is down by 11% and greenhouse gas emissions are down by 27%. We are 100% moving forward on that path.
Does Germany have a specific date for phasing out coal production?
There are dates in the climate change plan. By 2050, we will not use coal anymore.
In Slovakia, we also have coal power. A lot of money has been dedicated towards subsidies. What would be your advice for the Slovak government on how to enable the transition of the coal regions?
We are transiting to a climate-friendly economy. The transition needs to be managed. The train for the climate-friendly economy has left the station in Paris. It has already gone through the next station, Marrakech, and is moving forward. You are well advised not to miss that train. If you invest in old technology and old markets, you may wind up with stranded assets.
What are your comments on the Winter Energy Package?
The Commission has delivered on its promise to propose legislation that will influence our energy system for a long time.
If we look at the details, it is stronger on energy efficiency side. A lot of the proposals are very much in line with our belief: the priority should be energy efficiency, energy efficiency, and more energy efficiency. It is the sleeping giant. Merkel once said, the best kilowatt-hour is the one you do not use.