Good morning, Kaliméra.

Let me say, first of all, thank you Nicolas for the invitation.  It is such a pleasure to be back here in New York at Capital Link and to see so many friends from Athens.  I particularly want to acknowledge Minister Skylakakis, Minister Hatzidakis, Minister Staikouras, and Alternate Minister Papathanasis.  It’s a real all-star team from Athens here telling the story of Greece.

It’s particularly a pleasure for me to be here in the context of my current responsibilities as the Biden administration’s energy diplomat, and to talk in particular about the increasingly important role that we see for Greece in promoting regional energy interdependence, energy transition, and energy security.

As Ambassador in Athens, I put a huge priority on our bilateral energy relationship, helping to support Greece’s energy security but also supporting Athens to assume a greater regional leadership role on energy issues.

In my current role with the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, Greece and Southeastern Europe remain absolute priorities.

Last week I was at COP28 in Dubai and I had the opportunity to spend some time with Deputy Minister Sdoukou and EU Director General for Energy Ditte Jorgensen at the Greek Pavilion where we together highlighted the tremendous changes in Greece’s energy sector and the increasing importance of energy to our overall bilateral relationship.

But I must say one of the great sources of satisfaction at that event was to hear how Director General Jorgensen praised Greece’s extraordinary record on energy transition and renewables and the leadership that Greece is providing across the European Union.

Here in the United States, of course, we’ve been trying to keep pace with Greece’s remarkable green energy transition through our Inflation Reduction Act.  It’s been just under 16 months since the IRA was passed by our Congress and in that time the Inflation Reduction Act has supercharged the clean energy transition here at home, already producing an estimated $240 billion in new investment and the creation of over 170,000 jobs.

But the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act are having a multiplier effect outside the United States.  The IRA is encouraging the acceleration of investment and it’s stimulating new diversification in innovation.  It’s going to lower costs and bring benefits around the world including in Greece.

So we’ve been working very closely with Greece and other European partners to leverage the IRA, to support the EU’s green agenda for the Western Balkans, and to build up synergy between our countries, our governments and our companies.

At the same time Greece and the United States are working together to manage the fallout from Vladimir Putin’s weaponization of oil and gas which has clearly demonstrated that Russia can never again be seen as a reliable energy supplier.

As the energy map of Southeastern Europe has been transformed by Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, Greece finds itself at the center.  Greek LNG import capacity remains absolutely vital for the region and the United States is proud to be the top supplier of LNG to Greece.

The recent investment of $125 million by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation in the Elefsina Shipyards will help Greece to maintain its LNG tanker fleet and also build up capacity for renewables and other aspects of the clean energy transition.

We’ve also watched with great interest as other projects have come on-line to improve the energy security of Southeastern Europe including, of course, the Alexandroupoli FSRU which is set to begin operations next month, and the planned expansion of the IGB Pipeline with Bulgaria.

In the wake of the invasion of Ukraine these pipeline projects are even more important than they were when originally conceived.  In my current role I’ve been able to visit Sofia, Rome, and Bucharest three times, and in every case I heard frequent reference to the importance that those countries place on their energy connectivity with Greece and the Southern Gas Corridor specifically.

There’s also a great focus in Washington on the planned Greece-North Macedonia Interconnector which could be so important to encouraging the de-coalification of the Western Balkans.  I was absolutely thrilled this morning to meet with the CEO of PPC Renewables and to hear about that company’s expansion in Romania and the wider region.

All of these initiatives contribute to breaking the Gazprom monopoly and ending Russia’s ability to weaponize its energy against countries, especially in the Western Balkans and Greece.

But they’re also about accelerating the move away from coal and building a zero-carbon energy system.

Of course, these new interconnectors along with the expansion of existing infrastructure will improve efficiency by making better use of current resources.  These new electricity interconnectors in the region especially are essential to catalyze the energy transition and to help move the electrons that are at the heart of an electrified future energy system.

Greece also continues to make tremendous progress in developing and deploying domestic renewables.  I was delighted to learn that 2022 was another record year with 44 percent renewables consumption in the electricity sector and the target of 80 percent renewables by 2030.

As renewables expand, Greece is well positioned as a regional green energy hub with five major submarine electricity interconnectors under consideration.  The proposed Green Aegean Interconnector from Greece to Slovenia would also allow Greek renewable energy to find another route to Central Europe.

Looking southward, the United States wants to help connect the European grid to renewable power resources from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean through projects like GREGY and the Euro-Asia Interconnector.

These projects also complement the diplomatic investment that the Biden administration has made in our critical 3+1 partnership with Greece, Israel, and Cyprus.

Electricity interconnectors offer the prospect of more flexibility and power sources, more clean energy coming into the grid, and helping to deliver affordable energy in a reliable way.  Growth in electricity interconnectors also offers the prospect of helping to insulate countries against the price shocks that have come from Russian energy.

Greece is well positioned to play a leading role in Europe’s clear hydrogen revolution as well, and the expansion of new offshore wind power blocks.  Every new gigawatt of wind and solar production in Europe reduces the hourly wholesale cost of electricity.  This is key since these renewable power sources are now less expensive than the alternatives.

Increased clean energy investment is not just going to promote our climate goals.  It’s going to promote energy security, it’s going to bring down prices, and it’s going to help maintain stability in the market.

U.S. companies like Microsoft, AWS, GE and 547 Energy have invested millions in renewable projects in Greece and the opportunities for investment will grow as the efficiency and scale of the sector further develops, leveraging Greece’s bounty of wind and solar resources and its reputation now as a leader across the European Union.

Energy security and energy transition go hand in hand, and both require robust private sector participation.  As we work together on the energy transition Greece and Europe, as in the United States, must not replace an era of dependence on Russian fossil fuel for an era of dependence on Chinese clean technology inputs. 

Through the State Department’s Mineral Security Partnership, the United States and 13 partners are working together to secure and diversify mineral supply chains by upholding strong ESGs, by advancing investment opportunities, and by promoting transparency.

Greece has a domestic connection to critical minerals through its very long mining traditions.  LARCO, for instance, has the potential to be a much more efficient producer of nickel, a critical input to the overall clean tech supply chain.  Greek company Sunlight is positioned to play an important role in battery supply chains and is already investing here in the United States.

Finally, to conclude, looking to 2024 it’s worthy noting that Greece will host the 9th Our Oceans Conference in Athens in April.  As Prime Minister Mitsotakis highlighted at COP 28 in Dubai, maritime decarbonization holds special significance for Greece.  

The Prime Minister’s call for the Greek shipping industry to take the lead in adopting new technologies to help decarbonize the sector — a sector that is equivalent to the 8th largest country source of greenhouse gas emissions — is a welcome show of leadership and recognition of Greece’s role as a leading global shipping power.

There’s also another opportunity for U.S. and Greek companies to collaborate, to push innovation, and reduce emissions while generating jobs and helping protect the global commons that sustain our two great maritime nations.  

So thank you again for the warm welcome here at Capital Link, and I very much look forward to listening to Minister Skylakakis’ remarks and continuing the work that we do to deepen the U.S.-Greece alliance on this critical set of issues.

Efcharisto Poli.

U.S. Department of State

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