We specialise in M&A, asset and project financing and strategic and regulatory advice in all energy sectors covered by the National Energy Strategy, such as conventional energy, nuclear energy, public lighting, water and waste management, energy efficiency and electro-mobility projects, CHP rehabilitation projects, gas and oil up and down stream projects, electricity and gas transactions on hubs and stock exchanges, state aid issues and the transposition of European legislation and court practice in relation to interconnections, CO2 certificates and all other regulatory matters.
We foster a close relationship with national and European regulators and provide assistance and support in the drafting of relevant sector legislation. In addition, we provide advice on major infrastructure projects such as road and rail constructions.
Our Relevant Experience
International energy markets have undergone a complex change as a result of technological, climate, geopolitical and economic factors that exert a direct influence on European and national energy markets.
Romania must adapt to the coming together of these factors and the resulting uncertainty they will inevitably create on international markets. Similarly, geopolitical developments will influence even well established strategic partnerships in ways that have a significant impact on energy security, investments, commerce and technology.
Energy security is the capacity of a country to ensure its nation’s energy supply without interruption and at affordable prices. Currently, the EU imports around 53% of the energy it consumes, including crude oil (90%), natural gas (66%), coal and related solid fuels (42%) and nuclear materials (40%), making it the largest energy importer in the world at an annual cost of approximately EUR 400 billion. Energy dependency fosters vulnerability, for example six EU member states depend on Russia for the supply of their entire natural gas imports and three of these use natural gas to satisfy over one quarter of their total energy needs.
Romania has an energy security risk lower than the OECD average and significantly lower than its neighbours. However, current international energy markets are quite volatile and technological advancements may negatively effect decisions about energy sources. Climate and environmental policies that focus on the reduction of greenhouse gases and target clean energy, also influence consumption patterns and investment policies. For example, an abrupt decrease in oil prices due to oil shale production has produced a significant effect on electricity and natural gas prices that, in turn, has led to a reduction in the ability of conventional energy producers to invest in strategically important projects. It has also affected the profitability of renewable energy source investments.
The EU is an important source of funding for green energy projects and projects for the connection of energy markets. Such funding packages are often granted to projects that affect, and are developed by, at least two member states. Through the Connecting Europe Facility, Romania has already benefited from significant European funding for two major projects: (i) a EUR 179 million grant for the first phase of the construction of a pipeline of 528 km involving Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria (BRUA), which is an essential component in the energy security of Southeast and Central Europe. The pipeline provides Europe with access to Caspian Sea gas, and in the future Black Sea gas; and (ii) a financing agreement of EUR 19 million signed in November 2017 between The Innovation and Networks Executive Agency and the NEXT-E Group, which includes oil and gas companies and vehicle manufacturers, the purpose of which is to establish a network of charging stations for electric cars across the TEN-T.
Our Relevant Experience
The imbalance between the demand for energy within a nation, and the EU as a whole, and access to affordable energy is the primary energy security risk. Over the last few years, there has been a decrease in energy consumption coupled with high energy production in the region, which explains the current excess in electricity production over capacity. However, without investment in capacity expansion, there will be a production deficit after 2025.
Experts predict that Romania’s internal energy consumption will rise, even though the tendency is to separate economic growth from energy consumption. The increased interdependence of energy markets will put competitive pressure on Romanian electricity producers and their inefficient assets, such as those that have reached their average life span. It is extremely challenging to coordinate our regional energy production market with neighbouring countries because only Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania observe the EU environmental rules regarding energy production. This imposes considerable constraints on electricity producers and, as a result, domestic production of hydrocarbon and coal-based electricity will, in all likelihood, diminish. Currently, Romania’s day-ahead electricity market is connected with those of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
As far as natural gas is concerned, connections with neighbouring countries diminishes supply security risks. However, the lack of investment in transport networks and the low pressure in over-sized pipelines prevent Romania from complying with EU standards, and make Romania an economic, financial and technological outlier circumvented by energy flows. As a result, in the medium and long term, the implementation of bi-directional flow connectors and regional LNG terminals will provide alternative sources of gas for Romania.
Experts also predict that traditional fuels will remain a part of the energy mix in Romania, with hydro-electricity continuing as the backbone of the national energy system, together with a small contribution from renewable sources. The on-shore and Black Sea offshore gas reserves will satisfy internal demand, while coal will come under increasing pressure due to the environmental cost of greenhouse gas emissions. Biomass will become central to the heating of households in rural areas and co-generation will continue to play a key role, with investments planned in the modernisation and re-fitting of centralised heating systems, new power plants and energy efficiency projects.
Romania has a diversified mix of electricity sources, with around 43% coming from renewable sources (29% hydro, 10% wind, 2.6% solar and 0.7% biomass) and around 57% coming from conventional sources (24.5% coal, 17.5% nuclear and 15% gas).
The strategic investment priority is the renewal of the nation’s electricity production infrastructure as most of it is more than 30 years old. The majority of existing facilities have reached their average life span and many of them are inefficient and/or ecologically inadequate. Remedying these issues will require investment up until 2030 of between EUR 7 and 14 billion. Although gas-based power plants will be the priority, coal-based power plants will also play a role to ensure the stability of the national energy system, but they will have to be replaced after 2025. The new lignite facilities will need to be highly efficient and reduce GGE.
Hydro-electricity is essential to balance the system. Therefore, maintaining and modernising the current hydro-power facilities, together with small pumping facilities, will be required until 2030, at which time investment in a big reverse pumping station will become the major priority.
As to renewable energy sources (RES), the support scheme of green certificates ended on 31 December 2016. Any new RES will need to develop without such support schemes and the determining factor for the profitability of such projects will be access to low cost capital funding. If these projects receive adequate support, the use of biogas and waste will increase and will be used in CHP facilities. Over the last five years, approximately 3000 MW of wind capacity has been established, this is considered to be the maximum capacity to use and still ensure the dependable functioning of the national energy system in its current form. The unpredictability of wind capacity requires a reconfiguration of the balancing market with investments targeting peak units.
Nuclear energy is a strategic option for Romania and Units 3 and 4 at Cernavoda represent by far the biggest potential energy project in the future. It will significantly reduce the capacity required in the region by providing 3000 MW of energy. The Romanian government plans to grant state aid for this project (similar to the one approved by the EC for the United Kingdom) that will also require strengthening of the transport network.
Transelectrica, the national transmission and balancing company, aims to attract investment for the development of the network in northeast Romania and for increasing cross-border connection capacity. Given developments in the RES market, the balancing market becomes essential. The most active producers likely to respond to balancing requests are hydroelectric facilities and gas-based facilities as the balancing of a regional market requires sufficient inter-connection capacity.
Along with the development of intelligent networks, spot prices will influence consumption patterns by improved regulation of consumption and with the support of automated systems and efficient public lighting. Beginning in 2014, the day-ahead market in Romania was connected to similar markets in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia and which set a regional electricity price. Romania is an electricity exporter and in order to have competitive prices, domestic electricity production should not be overburdened by taxes and levies such as the tariff on the injection of electricity into the network, a tax on the turbined water in hydropower facilities or the water used for cooling the coal-based facilities, which only exist in Romania and not in the neighbouring countries.
Both the market for exportable electricity production and the balancing market are highly concentrated, while the day-ahead and bilateral contracts markets are less so. At present Romania has one of the lowest electricity prices in Europe, although it is expected that the price will rise in the future to an average of 65-85 EUR/MWh, depending on the capital costs required to upgrade production facilities, the price of fuel, the cost of modernising the transport and distribution infrastructure and the cost of certificates for GGE.
With over 150 years of tradition in the exploitation of crude oil and natural gas, Romania is the sole significant hydrocarbon producer in Southeast Europe. However, reserves have constantly diminished over the years and the average annual production has declined by more than 2% over the last five years.
At the current rate, certified oil reserves will be depleted within approximately 12-15 years. Romania has, therefore, adopted a strategic priority to increase investment which is intended to increase recovery from existing oil fields and, in the long run, to develop projects for the exploration of oil resources below 3000m and complex geological onshore projects along with deep water (below 1000m) off-shore projects.
Starting in 2014, the extreme and abrupt decrease in the price of oil, when the production of crude oil from non-conventional sources was launched in the US, discouraged investment in oil exploration and exploitation. Romania’s domestic production of crude oil covers approximately 40% of its demand.
Romania produces more refined petroleum than there is an internal demand for. Romania has also followed the European trend of reduced competitiveness in this sector caused by the relatively high price of energy in the EU compared with non-EU competitors and the costs imposed as a result of the drive to reduce greenhouse gases. As such, whilst Romania has imported crude oil mainly from Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Turkmenistan, it continues to be a net exporter of petroleum products.
Natural gas represents approximately 30% of Romania’s internal energy consumption due to both the domestic availability of this resource and because its use has little impact on the environment. Natural gas can also balance RES-produced energy due to the flexibility of gas-fired generation facilities. The extraction, transportation, underground storage and distribution network covers the whole nation, and it has the potential to connect the Romanian national transport system with the central European system and the Caspian Sea resources via the south gas corridors. Domestic natural gas production routinely makes up more than 90% of internal consumption. However, in 2016, because of low oil prices, the long-term gas import prices reached lower levels than those of domestic producers and natural gas producers will now have to attempt to remain competitive with import sources.
2. Transmission, storage, distribution, and the gas market
The recently discovered resources in the Black Sea require the construction of reverse flow connectors.
The most important pipeline to be constructed is the Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria pipeline (BRUA), which is included in a list of common interest projects for the EU. Another priority is to ensure suitable transport capacity towards the Republic of Moldova.
Romania must invest in the modernisation and maintenance of its national gas transport, storage and distribution networks in order to allow operation at high pressures, to reduce network losses and to increase operational flexibility. The national transport system is under-utilised because it was built in 1960 and its dimensions are no longer consistent with current consumption requirements and standards. As a result, network charges are the highest in Europe and this is reflected in consumer bills. In the future, high-pressure transmission will have to adapt to the operating levels of neighbouring countries if it is to allow reverse flow.
Completing these upgrades will create a competitive gas market that does not currently exist. To aid in creating this market, the Regulatory Authority is drafting a Network Code that will allow the reservation of capacity at exit and entry points in the national transport system. Significant investments in IT will be required to allow cross-border transactions (SCADA compatible with neighbouring countries) as well as to develop transaction platforms for the day-ahead and intra-day markets, which are currently being carried out through a Hungarian platform.
At present, most of the domestic gas is produced by two main entities, which creates vulnerability and leads to closed supply markets, even though legislation requires that most of the gas is traded by suppliers and producers on OPCOM, the Romanian electricity and gas stock exchange.
Currently, the gas market is extremely focused on the production and import sectors. Romgaz and OMV Petrom cover around 95% of domestic production whilst the first three importers cover around 95% of imports. On the competitive supply market, there are numerous suppliers but the first three companies have a market share of around 65%.
A regional hub for production of spare parts for electric cars and RES technologies
Planners envisage that Romania will produce batteries, heat pumps, materials for energy-efficient buildings and technologies for managing intelligent networks and energy consumption on the basis that Romania will become the main regional user of these technologies.
The development of intelligent distribution and transportation networks
Intelligent networks allow real time control and two-way communication between producers and consumers in order to optimise energy production and consumption. The interaction between electricity networks, the internet and communication networks will grow and lead to gains in both efficiency and flexibility. The new technologies need to ensure the protection of personal data and increase security against cyber attacks.
Promoting electric and hybrid vehicles
The plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle market in Romania is at the initial stage, but it is rapidly developing. For instance, between 2016 and 2017, BMW doubled its sales of the fully electric plug in BMW i3.
The Romanian government is supporting the development of a charging infrastructure for the electro-mobility and energy efficiency markets. Romania is well positioned to produce electric vehicles, charging units, batteries and any related components. For example there is a commitment, until 2020, to install 222 charging stations with up to 50kW (fast charging stations) and 30 charging stations with up to 350 kW (ultra-fast charging stations) on the main European and Trans-European transport corridors.
This commitment is part of the Connecting Europe Facility grant for electric vehicles, and aims to increase interaction with Western Europe and complete the connected network, in addition to the ULTRA E and FAST E (connecting the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria)
NEXT E partners are E.On, MOL, PETROL (Slovenia and Croatia), Hrvatska Elektroprivreda Croatia, NISSAN, and BMW.
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