Towards a Balkan gas hub: the interplay between pipeline gas, LNG and renewable energy in South East Europe
Crude and gas from the Russian Federation dominates the South Eastern Europe (SEE) import portfolio. Russian companies control oil refineries in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia. Gazprom is the main gas supplier to the entire region and the only producer of domestic gas (and oil) in Serbia. Its gas export is associated with a network of subsidiaries, resellers, agents and sponsorships that are granted special rights in their respective countries of operation. This system is supported by the availability of “on demand” credit resources that contribute to the soft budget constraint and facilitate the operation of low efficiency district heating systems, emergency power generation and inefficient (fertilizer, etc.) industries. This formal and informal network of control goes way beyond monopolistic market behavior and constitutes an effective “stick and carrot” government capture system. In this governance context, and if the current supply and demand structure remains, SEE will have an increased energy security risk due its exposure to a disruption in gas supply via Ukraine. In contrast, the European Union (EU) is looking toward this region as an option to improve its security of gas supply and diversify its supply portfolio. This encourages local expectations of transit rents and is based on the assumption that the region may host the following: Southern Gas Corridor, North-South Gas Interconnection and Central/South Eastern Electricity Interconnection. There are more overlapping energy transit projects being considered than in any other region in Europe.
This paper sets out a realistic roadmap that is able to overcome existing barriers and provide the desired level of security of supply:
1.Gas consumption that does not yield positive economic returns is to be phased out by energy efficiency, use of renewable energy and opening to international markets;
2.Flexible Black Sea & Balkans (BS&B) Gas Hub through the improved use of existing infrastructure;
3.BS&B Gas Hub facilitates gas trade with the rest of Europe that promotes more efficient use of gas, market opening, industrial restructuring and increased renewable energy integration – all beyond the expectations indicated in various current strategic documents.