Moderator: Good afternoon. My name is Lawrence Randolph and I’m the public affairs officer here in Paris. I’ll be moderating today’s conversation.
We’re fortunate to have Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Energy Resources who works on the intersection of economic investment and energy issues. Assistant Secretary Pyatt will provide opening remarks and then take your questions for the balance of the time.
A/S Pyatt: Thanks very much for the introduction. Thanks to you, also, colleagues at the Brussels Hub for putting this together. I’m really delighted to have this opportunity this morning. I hope we can have a real dialogue focusing on some of the work we’re focused on here at the Bureau of Energy Resources.
Let me start with the major priority which is protecting the sovereignty of Ukraine. We have all seen over the past year and a half how Russia’s illegal and brutal war has featured energy issues, both in terms of Putin’s effort to weaponizes energy through the use of coercion against our allies in Europe but also through all of these terrible attacks on civilian energy infrastructure which began last October and then tapered off through the summer, and then appeared to be resuming again including the recent attacks that just took place overnight.
The World Bank has assessed that out of the $14 billion in damages that Russia is responsible for, $2.1 billion of that has been inflicted on the energy sector, so energy has been a priority as we’ve thought about the task of reconstruction, the work that is being done by Secretary Pritzker, the work that I have led with our G7+ allies. And as I said, we’ve seen the beginnings of a reescalation of airstrikes against the Ukrainian power grid just in recent days.
There is no figure of dollars or euro that can capture also the harm to Ukrainian civilians that has been a byproduct of these attacks on energy infrastructure. As I always say, we are determined not to let Putin use these attacks on civilian infrastructure be the vehicle through which he achieves what his armies have failed to achieve on the battlefield which is why it is so important that we stand with Ukraine, stand with the people of Ukraine.
President Biden, of course, reiterated that commitment at the UN General Assembly last week as did Secretary Blinken during his important visit back to Ukraine.
We have seen so many other manifestations of Putin’s efforts to use energy as part of his tool kit for maligned influence. I saw that when I was US Ambassador in Greece and Russia cut off gas supplies to neighboring Bulgaria. We’ve seen that with Russia’s efforts to use Europe’s previous dependence on Russian gas as an element of coercion.
I think it is a source of great pride to me personally the work that we have done jointly with our European allies. The response from the United States, both our public sector and our private sector, has been to rally around our friends and allies. We’ve seen that with how American LNG companies surged supplies to Europe at its time of need.
I was discussing that earlier this morning with American LNG companies who are meeting in Erie, Pennsylvania, talking about both the work that our companies are doing to mobilize gas resources — and I would note that US liquefaction capacity by 2025 will grow by about 50 percent. But also all the work that American LNG producers are using to reduce the climate impact of the energy they provide through methane capture, through abatement of CO2, something that I had the opportunity to discuss last week with Director General Ditte Jorgensen from Brussels who was with us in New York City.
Of course we are greatly encouraged at how the European energy security situation has improved compared to where it was a year ago, including with gas storage levels at historically high levels going into the winter.
American companies, like their counterparts in Europe and like the European energy community, have also been rallying to provide Ukrainian energy workers with the critical equipment that they need to keep their energy system running even while under attack.
We are standing shoulder to shoulder with Europe. We will look forward next spring — it’s something I discussed with Ditte Jorgensen — to hold the next US-EU Energy Council meeting here in Washington, DC which brings together the Commission, both DG Energy and external with the Department of Energy and the Department of State. We understand these issues of energy security are a core element of our transatlantic security [inaudible] transatlantic security partnership.
I would flag a couple of other aspects of all of this in the work that ENR is doing, especially in Europe and in the transatlantic context.
We are seeing the expansion of the cooperation that is taking place across different European institutions and relationships. For instance, I traveled to Bucharest earlier this month for the Three Seas Summit meeting where among other things we welcomed Greece as a full participating state in the Three Seas Initiative. But we also celebrated the fact that Moldova has now joined Ukraine as a participating partner which means that these two neighboring countries will be able to tap into the Three Seas Initiative project pipeline.
At the Three Seas the United States announced a $300 million contribution to the Three Seas Investment Fund. This will go to foster greater connectivity, more durable infrastructure, drawing in the private sector and helping to accelerate the clean energy transition that’s already happening across the Three Seas countries. This will build energy security for decades to come, recognizing as I always point out that the most secure energy of all is the energy which doesn’t come from Russia, which comes from renewable sources. Whether wind, solar, geothermal, and increasingly across Central and Eastern Europe from civil nuclear as well.
This was another aspect of our messaging in Bucharest, something that Secretary Kerry in particular emphasized, that nuclear energy is an important component of the clean energy transition. Including advanced nuclear technologies like small modular reactors, the SMRs, that do not rely on Russian supplies or Russian services.
I want to in particular underscore Secretary Kerry’s announcement about our support for proposals from Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, all of whom have been selected to participate in Project Phoenix which is a US State Department program that will support the global energy transition by reinforcing coal to SMR opportunities across the region.
Project Phoenix demonstrates how we are repurposing infrastructure from the past to support the technologies of the future to make it cleaner, greener, and more resilient.
I also want to spend a second. I’m happy to talk in the Q&A about what’s happening here at home, in the United States, in particular through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Chips and Science Act which are super-charging our energy transition here in the United States, injecting billions of dollars into the clean energy transition here in the US but also accelerating the development and deployment of technologies that will cross the Atlantic Ocean.
I’m very, very bullish and had the opportunity when I was in Bucharest and also in Rome earlier this month, to talk about the opportunities for synergy, for instance, in the area of clean hydrogen — a technology which is seeing rapid acceleration in the United States because of our Inflation Reduction Act, but is also central to Europe’s vision for decarbonizing its energy systems, and especially tackling hard to abate sectors like steel and concrete that need intensive heat — something that I talked about a lot with companies and with the government when I was in Rome. Also looking ahead to Italy’s forthcoming presidency of the G7 where I know these issues around climate energy transition are going to remain an absolutely top priority.
Here at home we’re lowering energy costs, boosting America’s energy security, and strengthening our competitiveness through these investments in energy transition. The resulting manufacturing renaissance is helping to bolster industry and demonstrating that the United States is putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to our own energy transition here at home.
I’m going to look forward to highlighting some of these issues as well when I travel back to Europe next week at the International Energy Agency’s Climate and Energy summit in Madrid. I’m looking forward to that opportunity to engage with ministerial counterparts from across the region as we continue to work as hard as we possibly can to keep the target of maintaining global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius within reach. But also very much looking forward as I did in Rome to engage with all the Spanish companies that are working in partnership with American firms on energy transition, on energy security, on the technological innovation which is going to be so essential to the leadership that both the United States and Europe have maintained in helping to build a new, greener and more sustainable energy system.
We can’t talk about climate change and energy transition without addressing critical minerals and the underlying supply chains. It was very striking to me when I was at the UN General Assembly last week and during Climate Week in New York how central critical minerals had become to these conversations. It’s a front-of-mind issue for the administration, for our companies, and international partnership is absolutely central to this.
It’s something that will be highlighted this coming week by the IEA and its critical minerals ministerial which is being hosted in Paris, but then also early next month in London when we will have the Mineral Security Partnership Ministerial hosted by our British allies in London, bringing together both MSP, Mineral Security Partnership member companies, but also critical the private firms that are going to be critical to filling the extraordinary growth that we’re going to see in demand for cobalt, lithium, copper, nickel, zinc, all of the energy minerals that are so important to our energy transition.
Another example of how we’re working with allies and partners on these issues is the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, PGII, and of course we saw hard work on this issue also in New York last week as Secretary Blinken joined Secretary Yellen, Ajay Banga from the World Bank, meeting with some of our leading investment firms to look at how we de-risk some of these big infrastructure opportunities globally.
Through PGII we’re mobilizing investments in global infrastructure and diversifying supply chains. The US and the EU are committed to working together on these efforts across a number of specific projects like the Lobito Corridor between Angola, Zambia and the DRC that both diversify supply chains and benefit local economies.
We’re doing the same kind of work together with Europe, with our allies through the MSP, developing frameworks for ethical, economic and sustainable projects around the world. This means connecting industry to innovation and bolstering the production of the critical battery and energy transition minerals that I talked about earlier. Alongside PGII and MSP, other efforts to balance diverse supply chains with high environmental and ethical standards are working to build opportunity, for instance with the electric vehicle and battery workshops that we’re hosting right now in Zambia and the DRC. Building new energy pathways in North Africa, something that I talked a lot about when I was in Rome and we can turn back to, and building resilience for the mining sector in countries like Argentina and Indonesia.
We’re addressing resource scarcity while keeping the ESGs that our countries and our citizens are committed to front and center in everything that we do.
I know we have a Q&A now, but I want to start by actually teeing up the first question that was already submitted which is essentially why are you doing all of this? Why are we working on issues like supply chains? Why does the State Department care about mining or critical minerals? Why are we pushing American companies to get involved abroad in these areas? Why are we investing in things like the Three Seas Initiative and Project Phoenix? And why are we putting so much effort into Ukraine?
I could spend a lot of time on all of these questions, but let me try to answer it briefly. Firstly, by really encouraging everybody to read, if you have not already, Secretary Blinken’s remarks at Johns Hopkins University two weeks ago. This is a very carefully thought through presentation of America’s strategy for international engagement and where the Biden administration’s foreign policy is three years end.
The basic concept the Secretary highlighted there that we have competitors and adversaries around the world who have a very different vision of how the international system should be organized. They want to dominate supply chains. They want to push through and question sovereign borders. They want to coerce their neighbors.
The United States has a very different vision. Starting from a position of strength at home, we want to share our confidence abroad. As we invest in our own nation we want to support our allies and partners. The core of our strength, our national security, rests in our allies and partnerships. That’s something that I see everywhere I go in the world in my ENR role, but it starts in the transatlantic context where we have such a thick web of both alliances, our commitment to each other including through NATO, but also the billions of dollars of trade and capital that flow across the Atlantic and the people-to-people relations that are the foundation of our relationship and our shared values.
I’m very happy to talk about all of this and anything else that people what to raise with me in the ENR bucket today, but I really hope that if you’ll take away one message from my presentation this morning it’s the centrality of these energy security, energy access issues that are at the core of the work that ENR does. But also the recognition that this is the quintessential global issue. The United States cannot succeed in our goal of tackling the climate crisis and Europe cannot succeed in its goal of tackling the climate crisis unless we work together jointly and we bring along the rest of the world, because we are truly all in this together and our success individually is going to be tied to our success collectively, and tackling the climate crisis and ensuring energy security and building the new energy infrastructure that is going to be so central to achieving the goals that we have for our citizens, for our communities, for our prosperity, our growth and our security.
So I’ll stop there, and I’m happy to take any questions this morning.
Moderator: Thank you, Assistant Secretary for that very robust opening statement. We already have quite a few questions. We’re going to start with [Frederick Simone] of [Inaudible], from EURACTIV-dot-com.
Question: Hi. Thaks for taking the question.
Can you maybe update us on progress made in building the first SMR in Romania, I believe. How far advanced are you in this project? How much money has been committed to it? When will construction begin and when is it supposed to come online? And maybe more broadly, can you maybe expand on the objectives of Project Phoenix? Is the objective eventually to replace all existing coal plants in Central and Eastern Europe with US-made SMRs? Thank you.
A/S Pyatt: Thank you Frederick. Let me answer those questions in reverse order and start with your coal question.
Our objective in Europe as in the United States and globally is to phase out coal as fast as possible. And I would really commend to your attention a very important editorial that was published last Wednesday in the Washington Post by Secretary Kerry and Fatih Birol together. The headline of that editorial was their observation that we have to work harder on coal phaseout because if we allow the continued deployment of new unabated coal, especially in Asia, it is going to negate all of the progress that we are making in the United States, in Europe, in other countries on the decarbonization of our energy economy.
So in Europe, in the US — you know this. You drive around, you see new wind, you see new solar, you see the rapid transition of our economies. But these new coal facilities which could have a lifetime of 30 years have the potential to completely neutralize that work. So our goal is to phase out coal as fast as possible. I think you’ll see a lot of US focus on this particular issue as we continue our dialogue with allies and partners around the world in the leadup to COP28. This was very much part of the COP dialogue that I participated in last Thursday at the UAE Mission in New York along with Secretary Kerry, hosted by Fatih Birol and Dr. Sultan, the President of the forthcoming COP.
This is not about putting American SMRs in all of these facilities. We would be delighted, and of course we recognize that there are also SMR offerings from Rolls Royce, from a variety of other European investors. Nobody has deployed one of these things yet. We think we’re going to get there Romania is very, very important in that regard. There are two initial projects that are currently in development for an SMR concept here in Idaho, in the United States with NuScale and then NuScale’s project jointly with Nuclearelectrica in Romania for the project there.
I was impressed as I joined our delegations meetings with Romania’s Prime Minister, as I spent time again with Romania’s incredibly impressive Energy Minister, and had the opportunity with the Minister also to visit the Politechnica University in Bucharest where we have provided funding through the State Department for a simulator which is intended to build capacity so that as and when Nuclearelectrica’s new SMR comes online, Romania will have the human capital, the technicians needed to operate that facility.
You asked about timelines. So the forecasted deployment timeline is 2029. The NuScale design has already received its US Nuclear Regulatory Commission design approval here in the United States. But the really good news is, NuScale’s not the only offering. Both GE and Westinghouse, our big legacy nuclear developers, have SMR models which they are now marketing and discussing with potential customers. We have a number of other innovative companies like NuScale like TerraPower, like X-energy, all of whom are developing slightly different concepts for an SMR. All of whom I should add sort of explicitly model the Tesla development and the SpaceX development model which is to fail fast, to try to get to deployment faster than has been traditionally the case because there is urgency to this. As I said in my opening remarks, we see civil nuclear as an essential part of the overall climate solution.
I’m impressed also, as I travel around the world, the appetite for this concept globally. I had conversations last week with the government of Kazakhstan about their interest in SMR concepts. I’ve spoken with governments and government officials in Slovakia, in Czech Republic, in Poland, in the Baltics. I had the Bulgarian Energy Minister in my office day before yesterday. Tremendous interest across Central and Eastern Europe in SMR concepts. And then of course Ukraine which has a very large robust nuclear fleet already and sees SMRs as part of their long-term solution. But also globally. So I’ve discussed SMRs with the Energy Minister of Ghana. Tremendous interest in investment in the SMR concept from Korea, from Japan.
So this is an inherently international undertaking. It’s not just about American companies.
I recognize that in Europe there are a variety of perspectives on the future of civil nuclear as part of the overall energy mix. For the United States this is an indispensable element of how we meet our net zero targets and we’re investing resources of the federal government, of the State Department, of the Department of Energy to try to accelerate the deployment cycle there. But I always remember also when I was working in Vienna at the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei who was the Director General at that time used to always say in his remarks that nuclear technology is not for amateurs. These are hard technological challenges, and we’re only going to meet those working closely with our allies and partners.
Moderator: The next question goes to Juliette [Ing] from Reuters.
Question: I have a few questions. One about the G7 price cap on Russian oil. We’ve written and other newspapers, the FT and Wall Street Journal, that it’s losing its effectiveness. Russian oil is trading well above the cap. Does the US have any inclination to push for a review of how it functions, changing the price or maybe getting tough on compliance?
And then I was just wondering how you view energy security now that Azerbaijan has taken Nagorno-Karabakh? Do you think they can afford to take any action now since they’ve signed a new gas deal with Azerbaijan? They also take quite a lot of Azeri crude.
And last question, you’ve been talking a lot about nuclear and helping technology for SMRs. To what the EU has talking about, perhaps sanctioning ROSATOM. To what degree can they move forward with that? Are they able to cut off their reliance on Russian nuclear? And how soon? And what will be the medium-term consequences?
A/S Pyatt: Thanks, Juliette. There’s a whole lot of questions there. We can spend a lot of time on it.
Let me start on the energy security one because that’s really central to what ENR does and it’s really important. And I say this as somebody who when Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, I was living in the European Union. I was living in Greece as US Ambassador. I was working with the then Energy Minister Skrekas. But more importantly I was talking to politicians and citizens and companies who were in full panic at the dramatic spike that had taken place in LNG prices and the potential economic disruption that could cause.
I think Europe’s energy security position today is dramatically improved from what it was at that time in the spring of 2022. You see that in the record high levels of reserves that Europe enjoys today. You see it in the stabilization of prices and the price distortions that took place last year because of Russia’s actions were not good for Europe, they also weren’t good for the United States. They weren’t good for global markets.
I will say also I had the opportunity last week when I was in New York to attend an event with President von der Leyen where she was providing an introduction to Prime Minister Kishida of Japan. It was really striking to see, first of all, the eloquence with which she talked about the European energy security story, but the real gratitude that she expressed for Japan and our Japanese allies for the work that Japan did last year to help with reallocation of cargos to meet Europe’s immediate energy security requirements.
Since then a couple of things have happened. One, US production continues to grow. The United States is now the largest LNG producer in the world. We’re going to have that status for years to come and I would commend to everybody the interview that the FT ran yesterday with Ditte Jorgensen talking about that issue but also highlighting the dramatic growth that’s going to take place in US liquefaction capacity in the years ahead.
Second, Europe has continued to invest in efficiency. So I don’t have the statistics at my fingertips, but I seem to recall that if you translate it into bcm of gas, the efficiency that Europe has achieved over the past year through investments in new heat pumps, better insulation, better industrial processes, it amounts to something on the order of [inaudible] bcm of gas or so. So a real improvement in efficiency.
We have a task force, a US-EU task force that continues to work on that agenda as well. And clearly one of the perverse impacts of Putin’s weaponization of his energy is the acceleration of Europe’s own energy transition, something that both of our continents are committed to.
Finally, you see the further diversification of sources and routes, and this sort of leads into your question about Azerbaijan. But I was struck, for instance, when I was in Rome how intensively ENI is working on opportunities in North Africa. Prime Minister Meloni’s engagements in Libya, in Algeria, working first of all to capture gas that’s currently wasted. So in the case of Algeria, we’re very focused on joint efforts by the US and the European Union in order to improve the efficiency of gas production in Libya, to stop venting and flaring and to use those molecules, to inject those molecules into existing infrastructure to provide non-Russian sources.
The work that I did when I was still in Athens and which we discussed last week with President Christodoulides around Cyprus and the offshore gas resources of the Eastern Mediterranean. Not a globally significant resource but a regionally very, very significant resource. And you have the specific proposals and discussions for instance with Chevron about how to commercialize those offshore shipping resources, building on what’s already happening with Egypt.
With all the countries of the Eastern Med and North Africa we’re also intensively engaged on energy transition, recognizing that if Egypt, if Algeria can do more on filling their domestic energy requirements through renewables in a region with bountiful wind and sun, that frees up more molecules to come to Europe.
I will let Director General Jorgensen speak for herself. We had an intensive series of conversations on these issues in New York last week. I would characterize Europe’s mood on these issues today as confidence but not complacency and a commitment to continuing to work jointly with the United States, both to diversify sources and routes, something that we’ve been doing going back two decades when we began our work on the Southern Gas Corridor. But also to accelerate our energy transition.
And let me just say briefly on Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, obviously we’re very focused on maintaining the ceasefire. We’re very concerned about the humanitarian situation, something that Samantha Power and my colleague [Yuri Kim] were addressing yesterday when they were in Yerevan. Azerbaijan has played an important role in addressing, helping to contribute to Europe’s energy security through the Southern Gas Corridor, the TAP pipeline which I worked on intensively when I was in Athens. We expect that that will continue.
But the real story I think is the diversification. Again I’ll use the example of when I was in Rome. When this all began a year and a half ago Italy was getting 40 percent of its gas from Russia. Today that number is now down to the low single digits. For all the reasons that I’ve talked about but also because Italian firms like Snam have invested in new FSRUs, diversification of sources, new opportunities in North Africa. I’ll be talking about some of the same when I’m in Madrid next week. This is a core part of what ENR does but as I said earlier, it’s also a core part of our alliance. And that was when we had in April, the last US-EU Energy Council that I joined Secretary Blinken for in Brussels when we were with High Representative Borrell and Commissioner Simpson. That was a big part of the conversation. How do we ensure the reliability of American gas, and I know that our producers are committed to that. But also how do we double down on our energy transition and how do we ensure that the fossil energy that our economies still need is produced in the least climate-damaging way possible.
Your other question was about the price cap. I’ll just say very briefly on that, we are as the G7 and as allies in the transatlantic context, committed to ensuring that Russia pays a price for this brutal invasion of Ukraine. And part of that price is trying to limit the revenues which Russia extracts from its fossil energy exports while doing so in a way that does not disrupt a global energy market that has already been severely disrupted by Putin’s actions.
We believe the price cap is working. You can see that in what’s happened with the Russian economy. You can see all of the distortions that are rippling across the Russian energy ecosystem including in what’s happened over the past week with the non-availability of diesel and how that is damaging the Russian economy.
We’re also committed to continuing to tighten our regime. We’re working with countries on diversion. We’re working with shippers on best practices for the implementation of the price cap. And we have demonstrated that we are committed to continuing to tighten our sanctions regime in particular in fulfillment of the G7 commitment to restrict future energy production and future energy revenue for Russia.
So for instance, very importantly our sanctions two weeks ago against the Arctic LNG Project in Russia. A project that has investment from our Japanese allies, but a project which we have sanctioned severely reflecting our judgment that that project constitutes a future energy project and we are committed to reinforcing that aspect of the sanctions regime.
I would also point importantly to the decision by American energy services companies like Baker-Hughes and Halliburton to withdraw from the Russian market. At a considerable financial cost to those firms. But that will also inevitably reduce Russia’s ability in the future to exploit its more technically challenging fossil energy resources.
But thank you for the question. I think I covered the whole gamut there.
Moderator: We have three more questions and about five minutes left. I think what we’ll do is we’ll read the two that are written, and then maybe we’ll call on the last one at the end, and then you can kind of answer them globally. Does that work, sir?
A/S Pyatt: Sounds good. And I can go a couple of minutes long if that’s okay.
The first submitted question comes from Lucas Voyachek of E15, the Czech Economic Newspaper.
He asks why you chose Czech Sokolovska Uhelna and Polish Orlen for your Phoenix Project over other candidates. What was special about these companies’ proposals? And will there be a second round for other Central and Eastern European countries to still apply for funding?
The second question comes from Kosovo.
Do you have a special plan for the Western Balkans as a region with countries dependent on energy imports while on the other hand domestic production is not entirely ecological? In Kosovo there is now a compact program from NCC which has helped with over 230 million euros. What are their long term plans, for example, for the wider distribution of LNG from the region?
The third question is from Christian.
Question: Thank you.
You mentioned Russia’s recent renewed attacks on energy infrastructure in Ukraine. Looking at Russia’s options in this winter, how concerned are you about potential attacks, sabotage against energy infrastructure in the Baltics, also elsewhere, looking at the Baltic pipe from Denmark to Poland, for example, looking at the LNG terminals that permit LNG shipping. That’s my question, thank you.
A/S Pyatt: Thank you for all of those questions. Let me start with the written ones.
First of all from Kosovo, and thank you for raising the Western Balkans. I had the opportunity day before yesterday to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister of North Macedonia and we were talking about exactly these issues. I was really encouraged, and you can see the press release that he put out by — I was encouraged by the very strong focus from the Deputy Prime Minister on our shared interests in energy transition, the opportunities for increasing North Macedonia’s energy security both through the agreements that North Macedonia has struck with American support with Bulgaria for the supply of non-Russian gas for the Skopje District Heating System, but also future opportunities for a new petroleum and liquids pipeline from Thessaloniki to Skopje. But also importantly, the US supported Greece-North Macedonia gas pipeline.
I have discussed in the past with Prime Minister Kurti that once that pipeline is operational, and it was very clear from the Deputy Prime Minister that the North Macedonian government intends for that project to move ahead. And I should say, I also had the opportunity to discuss that same project with Greek Foreign Minister Gerapetritis, with Deputy Foreign Minister Papadopoulou, and with Deputy Foreign Minister Fragogiannis last week in New York, and Greece has been a very strong partner for all the Western Balkans on these issues of energy security, leveraging Greece’s own infrastructure including the Southern Gas Corridor, the TAP pipeline to Azerbaijan, the new FSRU that will come online the beginning of the near year in Alexandroupolis and all of the investment that we’re seeing across that region in renewables.
But I’ve had the conversation in the past with Prime Minister Kurti that once you get this non-Russian gas to Skopje it’s very easy to then put some of that into trucks and transport it to Kosovo in order to provide cleaner and more secure and reliable energy for the citizens of Kosovo as well.
I’ve had similar conversations across the Western Balkans with the Energy Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Serbia, another country which is a contracted off-taker from the Alexandroupolis FSRU.
I was just talking the other day with Romanian colleagues about the opportunities that they see for intensified interconnection with the Western Balkans region.
So this issue is very much on the radar for my colleagues in the European Bureau, but also for ENR, an understanding that the Balkans as you said, face a particular challenge both in terms of a very dirty legacy energy system, but also the opportunities to leap into the future.
And again, to finish up with North Macedonia. I was so encouraged to hear his focus on everything from clean hydrogen to wind, solar, new hydro. So this is a prominent part of our overall relationship, something that I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with almost every energy official across the Western Balkans.
The question from Prague on Project Phoenix. First of all, let me say how proud I am of the work that our embassy is doing and the tremendous opportunities that we see for an intensified nuclear energy partnership with Czech Republic. I’ve met with a variety of Czech firms. I also recognize that Czech companies like [Skoda] play a global role in terms of the civil-nuclear supply chain. I have a tremendous counterpart in Prague, Ambassador Bartuska, the work that we do on energy security. But also the real leadership that Czech has provided in our G7+ coordination group that supports Ukraine’s energy resilience and the opportunities that Czech companies have to be part of the next stage of Ukraine’s reconstruction and the billions of euros that are going to be devoted to building new energy infrastructure there.
I should flag also, we just announced a new US-Ukraine MOU on energy cooperation in the context of $520 million of US government money which is devoted specifically to Ukraine’s energy resilience and especially energy reconstruction of which civil nuclear is an important part, something we’ve developed joint with Deputy Prime Minister Kubrakov, with Energy Minister Halushchenko, and all of our counterparts in Kyiv.
On your question about how did we choose the companies? Where does this process go? I’ll really leave this to my colleagues in our Nonproliferation Bureau who work on this. What I can tell you is this is not a one-off exercise. This is something that we will come back to again and again. And I can also tell you that our objective in this Project Phoenix, as I said in my earlier comments, is not just to grow economic opportunity and not just to pursue the kind of commercial opportunity that we are pursuing for instance in the Czech Republic with Czechia’s very large civil nuclear tender where we hope that American companies will be chosen in the context of our broader alliance relationship and the enduring US commitment to our alliance with the Czech Republic. But also because of the opportunities it creates to advance our energy transition.
So we’re going to work with the companies that have the know-how, the technical capacity and the infrastructure. And this is all, sort of as I answered the earlier question about Romania, this is about speeding up the timeline. How do we take a deployment that might be anticipated for the 2030s and move it up to the late 2020s because that’s what the climate crisis demands.
And then Christian, your question was about how concerned are we about Russia’s actions. I will tell you one lesson I learned from three years of being US Ambassador in Kyiv is never to say to myself it can’t get worse. It always can, and you’re seeing Russia’s continued willingness to violate norms, to exceed expectations as Putin in his desperation to deny the Ukrainians their own sovereign choice becomes more and more unpredictable.
I would not want to speculate on what Russia’s future action might look like. What I will say is we have seen, and this is a good place to finish. We have seen over the past year and a half how determined the United States and Europe are to prevailing in this energy war that we are engaged in with Russia.
Europe has massively exceeded expectations in terms of reducing its vulnerability to Russian energy coercion. You saw that in the reduction of Italian dependence on Russia that I talked about earlier. You saw it in the incredible speed with which Germany has divested its exposure to Russian energy and deployed new gas and renewable infrastructure. And you see it in the way we’re all working together every single day through the G7+ and other vehicles to support Ukraine, to ensure Ukraine’s success in its campaign to defend its own sovereign territory. But also to ensure that this energy war and Putin’s effort to weaponize the winter as Jens Stoltenberg put it, is a strategic failure.
So we’re very, very committed to our partnership with Europe on these issues. I’m grateful for the opportunity to answer some of these questions. I look forward to fielding some of the same when I’m in Madrid next week, and continuing to ensure that of all the work that ENR does around the world, that our efforts to build the transatlantic energy partnership on transition, on security, on access, is as strong as any we have anywhere around the globe.
Thank you very much.
Moderator: Thank you, Ambassador. And thank you for all of the journalists who joined today for this really thoughtful conversation. I really appreciate the opportunity to engage on this critical topic. Again, thank you for joining us today. Thank you for your time. We went a little bit over schedule, but really, again, this is a critical topic and we thank everyone for joining us.
A/S Pyatt: Thanks a lot.