“At the moment, energy companies that want to install off-shore wind power plants in the Black Sea cannot do so because of the dispute between Romania and Ukraine regarding the continental platform and the ownership of Insula Serpilor (Snakes' Island). It is a situation that must be solved as soon as possible,” said Filip Cirlea, former adviser on renewable energy issue at MEF. According to him, there are important energy companies that want to invest in such wind farms but cannot because the platform where the placement of these energy mills would be favorable doesn't have a clear legal owner. This is a problem for the Romanian authorities, which have a tight deadline to comply with the European Union targets in carbon dioxide emissions. “In 2010 the national energy consumption from renewable energy must represent 33 percent of total consumption. The Aeolian potential in Romania can reach 8TWh per year,” said MEF representatives. It is doable if the Romanian authorities see the benefits of making all opportunities available to investors that plan to spend million of euros in renewable energy.
Who wants to invest in off shore power plants?
Electrica, an important energy player on the Romanian energy market, told Business Review that it plans to install off-shore wind power plants with almost 50 MW.
“We are interested in installing an off-shore wind farm in the Black Sea. We are considering an investment in a wind farm of 50 MW. For an off-shore unit, the total investment rises to EUR 1.4 million, from EUR 1.2 million for an on-shore unit. Although the equipment is more expensive for the off-shore facility, the on-shore one also becomes more costly when the price of the land is taken into account. There is a problem with authorizations that are difficult to obtain. For this type of farm we need almost ten hectares,” said Corneliu Stan, general manager of Electrica.
Italian company Enel also has plans for off-shore wind power plants. “Actually we plan to invest in the renewable energy sector in Romania and we are scouting several projects in the wind farm sector. These off-shore wind farms are something that has been considered and is still considered in several places in Europe. I think there is a business opportunity there but there is a significant issue with the timing and all authorizations and permits which depend on Romanian authorities. So, we think the off-shore wind farms are a medium- to long-term business opportunity – more exactly, more than five years, I would say. In renewable energy we're thinking of investments for several hundred MW,” Matteo Codazzi, CEO of Enel Romania, told Business Review.
The authorities' reaction
One of the problems is to obtain an authorization for an off-shore wind farm. Representatives of the Romanian National Regulatory Authority in the Energy Field say they know about the problem but can't do anything about it. “The problem for these off-shore units is that the farms will be situated in the Romanian territory. They have to be able to connect to the National Energy System (SEN). The Insula Serpilor dispute is another significant problem. They [companies] come to us with these problems and what I can tell them is that I can't solve it. I am just a clerk. I am here to give the documentation and not to solve the problem. If the Romanian state can't resolve this dispute how can I?” an ANRE representative told BR.
MEF officials added, “Transelectrica, the transport and system operator has not received authorization for any project regarding the setting up of an off-shore turbine.”
This did not happen because Romania doesn't know what its maritime borders are. And this will not be clear for at least one more year because, according to MAE officials, the document presented to the International Court of Justice (CIJ) regarding the dispute and the specific coordinates cannot be disclosed.
“The content of the documents presented both by Romania and Ukraine is confidential until the oral phase of the process, when court representatives can decide if it is to be made public. Under the present conditions, the geographical coordinates which define the borders and all graphic representations cannot be made public,” said Ilie Banica, a spokesperson for MAE.
According to him, the CIJ at The Hague will start the oral phase of the process in the next period and a final court decision will probably be made in the second half of next year.
It is not only the investors who want to invest in off-shore turbines that are awaiting a solution in this case. Recently, 10 million tons of oil and gas resources have been discovered near Insula Serpilor (not a spectacular resource but a significant one to start off with) and more geological studies are to be conducted here in the next two years. British Petroleum (BP) and Royal Dutch Shell have already signed preliminary contracts with Ukraine, and Total with Romania. Furthermore, OMV, the owner of Petrom, signed a contract with a consortium formed of Naftogaz Ukraine and Chornomornaftogaz in order to participate in the auction for the exploitation of the area.