Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama at Atlantic Council Summit on Energy and Economy held in Istanbul:
Once Mustafa Kemal Atatürk said: “Mankind is a single body and each nation is a part of that body.”
Unsustainable patterns of energy production and consumption threaten not only human health and quality of life but also affect ecosystems and contribute to climate change.
Modernization of energy networks, is a serious source of concern for states, government agencies and energy industry as a whole.
At the same time, improving efficiency, reducing losses and the promotion of renewable energy are key links to promote the sustainable growth of Europe in the coming decades.
To achieve those objectives, is more important than ever that countries of a regions should forge joint plans for the sustainable development of the energy sector.
Earlier in July, in Dubrovnik, 15 ministers from Western Balkans and EU countries reached joint conclusions regarding the coordination and regionalization of the energy policy.
Just a very few years ago, some of the countries, the ministers represented at that occasion, were at war among each other’s.
While European reconstruction started with the Iron and Steel Agreement that preceded the creation of the European Union, energy regionalization is the key to the recovery and reconciliation of the Balkans.
South East Europe and especially the Balkans, the richest in Europe in terms of renewable energy reserves, have a very important role to play. Yet, countries in the Western Balkans face many challenges in developing their energy supplies.
Years of under-investment, combined with delayed reforms, have held back the region from developing to its full potential.
Many of the countries still heavily rely on energy from fossil fuels, particularly on base load energy from coal power plants.
When we took office in September 2013, the energetic system in Albania was near bankrupt and the sustainability of the sector was by far the main challenge the country was facing:
Albanian Electric Power Distribution Company had accumulated a huge debt on the range of more than 5% of our GDP, requiring intensive and costly state intervention.
The losses level in the distribution network had reached an historical peak nearly half of the total energy produced or imported, because of theft or lack of investments in more than two decades.
Nearly one in four Albanians wasn’t paying at all their energy bills. In fact, we found a collection ratio that was by far the lowest in Europe. And just to think that our country is the second richest country in Europe in hydropower potential after Norway.
In the light of such a national emergency, it was prepared a very aggressive Action Plan. This action plan aimed at creating a self-sustained and self-financing energy sector, creating room and trust for new investments, increasing the system’s efficiency and its integration with other countries networks.
A huge package of amendments in the power sector law, the civil code as well criminal code was approved alongside with a full package of a radical reform of market liberalization in the energy sector.
The efforts of the government have produced a spectacular transformation in just two years. Now the collection ratio is at nearly 100%, while the level of losses in the distribution sector have fallen dramatically.
For the first time in the last 25 years, the Albanian Electric Distribution Company registered in 2015 operating profits, enabling itself to start investing in the system.
The good management of power resources made possible for us to cover 100% of the demand even though we produced 32 % less power in 2014, compared to 2013 as a result of poor hydrological conditions.
This was lately recognised as a major achievement by the European Commission in its official progress report issued in the past week.
Our aim is to transform the energy sector from the heaviest burden of the Albanian State budget and the heaviest obstacle to face the future in a self-financing and contributing sector within 2018.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In January, an agreement was signed on the permanent synchronous functioning of the Albanian electricity transmission system with the continental European system.
This is a step towards Albania’s full membership of the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E).
For the Western Balkans as a whole, a key element of the reform effort is the Energy Community Treaty – a regulatory and market framework to which the entire region has now subscribed.
It aims to create an integrated regional market for electricity and gas compatible with the European Union’s internal energy market.
The Energy Policy Survey is the first comprehensive review of energy policies and strategies in the Western Balkans and also covers important cross-cutting topics such as co-operation and energy trade, oil and gas transportation, and the links between energy and poverty.
It identifies and assesses the reforms that are still needed to deliver efficient, modernized energy systems that can assist economic development, address energy poverty and reduce the environmental impacts of energy use.
Based on the existing interconnection lines with Greece and Montenegro, and considering the building in progress of new interconnections under construction with Kosovo and Macedonia, Albania is diversifying and consolidating its energy position in the region.
Moreover, the TAP pipeline, which would bring the Caspian Gas from the field of Azerbaijan to Western Union through Albania, puts for the first time our country in the centre of geo-strategic policy of European Union.
The completion of TAP project, the initiation of the Ionian-Adriatic Project and considering significant discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, that could make Israel and Cyprus new suppliers to the European gas market, in longer term Albania has every chance to play a vital role in the energy sector in the region.
It is common sense today in the EU as well, that energy security has become a challenge for all of Europe thus the efforts to diversify the sources in Balkans and beyond should be shared.
The Energy Union in the Balkans is today very clearly a commitment to fundamental and lasting change for our region and the whole of Europe.
And I want to conclude with the quote: There is no energy crisis, but there is only crisis because of ignorance. Our case is a proof and being here together is first and foremost coming together for increasing our horizon of knowledge, and I’m sure through more knowledge we will avoid the crisis ahead.
Thank you very much.
Prime Minister Edi Rama attended on Thursday the Atlantic Council Summit on Energy and Economy, held in Istanbul. The summit serves as a platform for the co-ordination of economic, political and energy policies by the United States in EU and Central Asia countries.