THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center’s briefing on the EU-U.S. Energy Council and related energy issues. My name is Jake Goshert; I’m the moderator for this briefing. As a reminder, the briefing is on the record. We will post a transcript of the briefing on our website, fpc.state.gov, later today. For our journalists who are joining us on Zoom, please take a moment to rename yourself on Zoom to your name, your outlet, and your country.
Our briefer today is Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources Geoffrey Pyatt. Following his opening remarks, I will open the floor to questions. But with that, I’m going to turn it over to the assistant secretary.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: Great. Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody.
Last week I joined the U.S. delegation, led by Secretary of State Blinken and Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Turk at the tenth U.S.-EU Energy Council meeting in Brussels. This was the first council meeting since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The meeting was a tremendous success, both in terms of our broad agreement on a range of issues and in the substantive nature of the joint statement that we issued. During the meeting both EU High Representative Borrell and Commissioner Simson expressed their appreciation for the United States leadership, working with Europe in responding to Putin’s weaponization of energy resources last year. High Representative Borrell also pointed out that this effort has largely failed.
Commissioner Simson highlighted that as we arrive at the end of the winter, the EU’s gas storage is at 56 percent – a historically high level – and U.S. and EU imports of Russian-piped gas have fallen to 9 percent from 40 percent. This council’s discussion of natural gas led to a consensus that Russia has simply ceased to be the defining factor in the European energy security equation. Our counterparts admitted that the European energy system has largely reoriented itself faster than even they would have predicted in February of 2022.
The council continues to strongly prioritize the energy transition and the opportunities that it opens for all of us. We talked about the historic nature of the United States Inflation Reduction Act, and how we are working with our partners and allies to address their questions and concerns. And we also talked about EU efforts to incentivize clean energy technologies.
We did recognize, however, that clean technology supply chains remain vulnerable to disruption if China continues to monopolize everything from critical minerals to hydrogen electrolyzers and solar power components. But we also sense that there’s a great opportunity for the United States and Europe to do more to build out these supply chains and to develop new technologies together.
We have a clear understanding as well that LNG is going to remain an important transition fuel for the European Union, as it is for the United States. But we need to work together globally to lower the carbon footprint of that gas. We will need to improve in particular methane capture, especially in countries that still vent or flare a significant portion of the gas that they produce.
I’m sure you all have seen the council’s joint statement. A few things stand out for me. The statement strongly condemns Russia’s unjust, illegal, and unprovoked war against Ukraine. It notes the council’s strengthened resolve to ensure EU energy security and to support Ukraine and Moldova. It also maintains a clear focus on achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
The statement also noted the concerns of developing economies which struggle to balance rapidly growing demand for energy and economic growth with climate concerns. These countries also strongly are affected by the energy market and related food and agriculture volatility that resulted from Putin’s war. The council’s endorsement of just energy transition partnerships and economic and workforce development assistance are two examples of how we recognize and address these concerns.
In light of current events and the interest of diversifying energy supply, I was pleased to see the council express the intent for the United States and EU to coordinate our support for transparent, integrated, and competitive energy markets within the Western Balkans, the Black Sea region, Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. The statement also noted our intent to continue to work collectively on maximizing the abatement and capture of leaks, flaring, venting, and other emissions.
The council’s plans include advancing standards for measuring methane emissions and leaks along the full value chain, fulfilling one of the goals of the Global Methane Pledge launched by the United States, the EU, and our partners at COP26. Entities like the U.S.-EU Energy Council play an important role in setting goals and standards. But I was also pleased to see agreement on continuing outreach to the business community on issues like offshore wind and small and modular nuclear reactors.
With the energy system as it stands now, the European Union will enter the winter of ’23-’24 with ample energy storage, while conducting ongoing work to decarbonize, including in hard to abate sectors, such as steel and shipping. Going forward, Europe and the U.S. will also continue to focus on increasing efficiencies through broad adoption of technologies, such as heat pumps and industrial efficiency measures.
While I was in Brussels, I welcomed the opportunity to spend some time with Directorate General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Várhelyi and with my counterparts at the European External Action Service, who work on our G7 group supporting Ukraine’s energy sector. The United States and the EU maintain our clear resolve to continue this work, and we welcome Ukraine’s return to being an energy exporter to Europe.
Ukraine’s future energy system will be clean, decentralized, and sustainable, and it will face west. Working together through initiatives like U.S.-EU Energy Council, we have defied expectations, improved our international cooperation, reinforced our close transatlantic relationship, and stood firm in support of Ukraine and Moldova.
I look forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: All right. So we’ll take questions now. A reminder: If you’re on Zoom, please change your name to your name, your outlet, and your country. If you’re in the room, please raise your hand, wait for the mic. When you get the mic, let us know your name and outlet and country before we begin the questioning. We’ll start over here in Ukraine.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. Good morning. Dmytro Anopchenko, Ukraine, Inter Television, D.C. correspondent. Mr. Pyatt, thank you very much for this opportunity to speak to you. After you was appointed, I spoke with colleagues in Ukraine, and they told we’re extremely happy to have Mr. Pyatt on that position, because it’s a person who not only lived in Ukraine but who love Ukraine and who got a lot of friends. So it’s my pleasure to share it with you and to remind that people still consider them friends, people living in Ukraine.
And two questions please. Firstly on Ukraine, it’s obviously that Russia tried to freeze Ukraine, but power grid survives, even despite the many rocket attacks. So on your point of view, what’s the main lesson for Ukraine, how the country should change or reform its power system, decentralized maybe just to avoid the same danger in the future? And secondly, if I may, on Russia, it was told from a lot of podiums here or in the State Department and the White House that Russia tried to use energy as an arm. Do you think it’s still the case, or after providing the price cap on Russian oil it’s not the case anymore? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: Thank you very much. Let me answer the second question first. I think it’s clear at this stage that Russia’s attempt to weaponize its energy resources against Europe, against Ukraine, and against the world has failed. You see that in the dramatic reduction in European consumption of Russian gas, something I mentioned in my remarks. You see that in the successful implementation of the G7 price cap on crude oil and refined products and the impact that that has had on Russian revenues. And you see that in something that was so clear to me in our conversations in Brussels, which is the decoupling of Europe from Russian energy supplies and the reorientation of the European energy economy towards reliable, trustworthy global partners, including significantly the United States but also critical partners as well in North Africa, in the Caspian region, and elsewhere.
So I think that phase of Russia’s energy war is over. This – Russia’s weaponization of its resources has also ironically accelerated the investment in Europe in renewables and helped to advance our shared commitment to our climate goals.
On the question of Ukraine, first of all, thank you for your comments. It has been very meaningful for me – a great honor – to be back on the Ukraine team working as we have sought across the U.S. Government to provide the support that Ukraine needs to prevail in its war with Russia.
You asked about the lesson of this past winter. I think the most important lesson is the extraordinary resilience and ingenuity of the Ukrainian people. You saw there was an excellent New York Times story this morning about Ukraine’s return to its status as an energy exporter to Europe, about the innovations that Ukrenergo and Ukraine’s energy workers made in the face of this relentless wave of Russian attacks that began last October.
We have to recognize, however, that the Ukrainian energy grid today is about 40 percent degraded, so we need to work together to provide Ukraine with the resources it needs to restore that capacity but also to build the greener, more sustainable, more decentralized energy grid that your government, that the Ukrainian Government, has committed to establishing.
I think Prime Minister Shmyhal visit to Washington this week is an important opportunity to continue that work together. What we’re doing through the G7 group is also an element of this. The volume of destruction that Russia has inflicted on the energy system is extraordinary, on the order of $10 billion according to the latest World Bank estimates. But I have also been deeply impressed that even amid all of this disruption the Ukrainian Government, Ukrainian energy companies, are so clearly committed to building a future energy system which meets the highest European standards of sustainability, is aligned with European regulatory and implementation standards, and provides the power that Ukraine is going to need to sustain its reconstruction process. So thank you.
MODERATOR: Okay, I see two hands raised on Zoom, so we’ll start with Rahim from Kurdistan.
QUESTION: Do you hear me?
MODERATOR: We hear you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it for this great opportunity. Let’s talk about agreement between Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Central Government. As you know, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government reached an agreement that will allow the KRG to resume exporting oil after the ruling by the International Court arbitration.
The U.S. was closely involved in reaching the agreement between Erbil and Baghdad, as I understand. Statement from National Security Advisor Sullivan welcoming Iraq’s energy sector as statements that, “We welcome significant progress in Iraq this week with respect to energy deals…First, the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government reached a historic agreement on the export of oil and management of revenues through the Iraq-Türkiye pipeline.” Why was it important to you? What effect do you think it will have? Why this agreement is historic? And thank you very, very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: No, thank you very much for the question. As you noted, National Security Advisor Sullivan’s statement on Friday reflects the strong level of U.S. support for this agreement but also the attention that we have paid to this issue across the U.S. Government, including with our teams at our embassies in Baghdad and Ankara.
You asked why do we care. There are a variety of reasons that we – that motivate our attention here. But one of them, of course, is the fact that you have significant American investment in the upstream oil and gas sector in northern Iraq and the Kurdish region, so we are keenly focused on finding a mechanism to see that the flows are restored as quickly as possible. We welcome strongly the agreement between Baghdad and Erbil to facilitate that, and we remain engaged with our Turkish allies as well to facilitate this agreement and the resumption of flows through Ceyhan.
I would also draw attention to the other aspect of National Security Advisor Sullivan’s statement, which is his strong support also for the agreement that was struck between Iraq and Qatar Energy and Total for a new program on one of the issues that I – that we talked about in Brussels at the Energy Council, which is measures to address venting and flaring in the upstream sector in Iraq. There is a tremendous opportunity to achieve additional gains for the Iraqi people through this agreement.
High Representative Borrell when we were in the Energy Council in Brussels made the point that worldwide there are something like 250 billion cubic meters of gas that could be captured through full implementation of the Global Methane Pledge. So this agreement between Iraq and Total and Qatar is very, very important to make progress on that goal as well. So we remain closely engaged on these issues. And as I said, we hope for full and speedy implementation of the new agreement between Baghdad and Erbil.
MODERATOR: I have more question here in the room. Yes.
QUESTION: Sputnik News Russia, Pavel Zakrovorotnyy. I have a couple of questions. In recent months, we all saw an increase of LNG deliveries from the U.S. to Europe. In light of this, do you believe Europe will soon become as dependent on LNG deliveries from U.S. as it was on Russian once?
And my second question is about oil and gas deliveries from Russia. Do you believe that they will completely stop in the near future? And do you think that the ongoing diversification of deliveries can completely replace deliveries from Russia? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: So I will say a couple of things. Let me start with the first, which is, having spent a little more than a half year now in this job traveling around the world, talking to energy ministers and foreign ministries and governments, it’s clear to me that Russia is never again going to be viewed as a reliable energy supplier because of what the Kremlin did last year to weaponize its energy resources and to use those energy resources as a element of a larger strategy of coercion aimed at Europe, aimed at Ukraine, and aimed at the world.
To answer your other questions, on your first question the answer is no. I do not see Europe replacing its former dependency on Russian oil and gas with dependency elsewhere. What I see happening is, as I said in my remarks, an accelerated European commitment to energy diversification. The United States in support of our alliance relationships has stepped up significantly. Our gas exports to the European Union last year were up by – up by 140 percent, representing about half of European consumption.
But importantly, Europe is diversifying its sources and its routes of energy, which has been a goal of American policy for several decades and has been reflected in all of the work that the United States has done to support, for instance, interconnectors and new gas infrastructure routes that support that diversification. When I was ambassador in Greece, I was proud to be deeply involved in our support for the launch of the Southern Gas Corridor and the TAP pipeline to bring Azeri gas to European markets. Similarly, I was proud to be involved in the negotiations for the IGB pipeline connecting Greece to Bulgaria and facilitating imports up into the whole Balkan energy island from global markets through LNG terminals in Greece and LNG terminals in Türkiye.
So what we see is the broader diversification of routes but also, as I noted earlier, a very strong commitment to partnership between Europe and the United States in accelerating the energy transition, to double down on that energy transition and do everything we possibly can to accelerate our move away from carbon-based energy solutions to more renewable and secure solutions, which of course are the best way to escape from the kind of vulnerability that existed before.
You continue to see variability across European countries, but for me it’s extraordinarily impressive to see the speed with which Europe has decoupled from Russia. I think this is not fully appreciated in international audiences. Look at the case of Germany, which has gone to zero Russian – zero Russian crude oil, zero Russian coal, dramatic reduction of Russian gas, and there is no intention ever to turn back to that situation of vulnerability.
MODERATOR: Okay. I think we have time for one last question, so we’ll go back to Zoom with Alex from Turan News Agency in Azerbaijan.
QUESTION: Hey, Jake. Thank you so much for doing this. And Assistant Secretary Pyatt, thank you so much for your time. Just staying on that line, the EU cut dependence on Russian gas from nearly 40 percent last year this time to about 15 percent by the end of 2022. That’s extraordinary. But where should we expect that number to be completely zeroed?
And secondly, you mentioned partners in the Caspian region, particularly Azerbaijan, in your statement – opening statement as well. I’m just curious how much of those partners’ independence from Russian influence is also a part of the deal to cement their reliance on the European markets in the long term.
Thank you so much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: Thank you, Alex, and very important question. And I think on the issue of sources, remember of course that we also have a commitment in the G7 context to phasing out Russian energy across the board. That would include oil, gas, coal, also nuclear. This is going – this process is going to proceed at differing rates in different countries based on their individual circumstances.
In the case of Europe, as you allude to, the option of gas from Azerbaijan has been an important part of the equation. We welcome, of course, the agreement also between President Aliyev and President von der Leyen to increase further those imports from Azerbaijan, and I’m aware that there have already been efforts to increase some of the flows through the Southern Gas Corridor even while the EU works through the regulatory aspects of further increasing the capacity of that pipeline network.
There are other sources as well that loom large as we look to the future. We’re very excited to support the options for bringing additional quantities of gas from the Eastern Mediterranean. Of course we have American companies significantly invested in that region as well. I’ve had these conversations with Cyprus, with Israel, with Egypt. I had the opportunity in Houston to meet with the energy minister of Algeria, another country with significant capacity to quickly increase its gas exports to Europe based on existing infrastructure, existing pipeline networks. Similarly we are supportive of the efforts that Italy has made to increase possibilities for imports from Libya.
So I think what we’re looking at over the next few years is the continued diversification away from Russia, in the case of Europe through a variety of different sources. But I would also emphasize that the consequence of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine have been felt around the world. I have seen this in my visits to India, my visits to Pakistan, my visits to Korea, to Japan – all countries that have been directly impacted by the spike in global energy prices that Russia is responsible for, and all countries that are looking to diversify and accelerate their energy transitions.
So even as Europe, which will likely be one of the first countries to significantly phase out its reliance on fossil fuels – even as Europe diversifies, there is going to be additional demand from other parts of the world, including – including, importantly, in the developing countries.
So we see the resources in countries like Azerbaijan – and I should add the countries of Central Asia as well – as an important part of the contribution to overall global energy security and global energy supplies, and the United States is committed to being a strong partner but doing so – as I emphasized in my remarks and as we emphasized so strongly in the Energy Council meeting – in a way that ensures the smallest possible carbon footprint for those energy resources, which means additional investments in abatement, in measures to combat venting and flaring, and new investments in areas like carbon sequestration, which can help to minimize the damaging climate impacts of these energy resources. Thank you.
MODERATOR: I do think we have one last question from Ukraine.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. I just have a question – we’re on the eve of the anniversary of the tragedy in Chernobyl atomic station, and everyone is afraid about the atomic stations – for example, about Zaporizhzhia, which is still under Russian control, which is still near the front line. So may I ask what’s your vision how this challenge may be – how we can manage this challenge? And do you personally support the idea of the International Atomic Agency that maybe this station or other Ukrainian stations might be transferred under the international control?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: So let me say a couple of things, and let me start by saying how moving it was for me personally to visit the Chernobyl site and to see the aftermath of that tragedy, but also to talk to everyday residents in Kyiv, all of whom have stories about what those weeks after the accident were like.
It’s also important to the United States that Ukraine is a very experienced and capable operator of civilian nuclear power. Of course, Ukraine has one of the largest nuclear fleets in all of Europe, and nuclear power will remain an important part of Ukraine’s energy system in the postwar reconstruction phase. That’s why, for instance, when Secretary Kerry was at COP27 last year in Abu Dhabi – or excuse me, in Sharm el-Sheikh – he announced our commitment to a partnership with Ukraine, including on small and modular reactors, an important part of the future technology solution.
The immediate crisis, as you alluded to, is Russia’s illegal occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station and the incredibly dangerous and irresponsible military operations that Russia is engaged in at that site. We have strongly supported the efforts of Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA. I actually had the opportunity to speak with Rafael, who I knew from my own service in Vienna at the IAEA in 2007 to 2010, about his work there. We don’t know what the solution is going to be like. I do know, as I always used to say when I was in Kyiv, there is one person who can end this emergency, and it’s Vladimir Putin, by picking up the phone and ending the military operations that are going on there.
But in the meantime, we are very, very appreciative of the strong Ukrainian focus on nuclear safety. The New York Times story I talked about earlier regarding this past winter and the energy crisis created by Russia’s attacks on energy infrastructure vividly describes the nexus with Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and the capacity that Ukraine’s nuclear operators demonstrated in managing their nuclear fleet safely, even in the face of this extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances – circumstance of Russia’s relentless attacks on that same infrastructure.
So we are very, very focused on this, working with our international partners, and I will also say being back in Brussels was a reminder to me of just how much concern and focus there is on this issue also in Europe, and that came through very clearly from Commissioner Simson and her interventions at our Energy Council. So we are committed to staying focused on this, working strongly in support of the IAEA, but also supporting our Ukrainian partners as they seek to manage the consequence of Russia’s actions.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll end the Q&A session there. Assistant Secretary, if you have any last thoughts or comments?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: No, just to finish up where I started in saying how important it was to me to see this first meeting of our Energy Council since Russia’s invasion and to see the sense of shared purpose that we and our European partners and allies brought to this undertaking, the very strong political commitment from the commission – as from the Biden administration – to maintaining this pillar of our transatlantic relationship, and doing so in a way that recognizes the unprecedented circumstances that have been caused by Russia’s invasion and the cost that that invasion is inflicting not just on Ukraine, not just on Europe, but on the whole international community. We’re going to stand together. We’ve made tremendous progress over the past 14 months and we’re committed to sustaining that progress in the year ahead. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Assistant Secretary Pyatt, and thank you to the journalists joining us in person and on Zoom. This ends the briefing today. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: Thank you.