Romania eyeing Israeli gas and renewable energy innovation - interview

Romania’s energy minister told The Jerusalem Post about the potential future of energy trade between the two countries.

Romanian Energy Minister, Virgil Popescu, talks on the phone before an interview with Reuters, in Bucharest, Romania, January 13, 2022 (photo credit: VIA REUTERS)
Romanian Energy Minister, Virgil Popescu, talks on the phone before an interview with Reuters, in Bucharest, Romania, January 13, 2022
(photo credit: VIA REUTERS)

Romanian Energy Minister Virgil Popescu visited Israel last week for meetings dedicated to cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy. On the top of his agenda was the discussion of Romania’s importing Israeli gas and Israeli innovations in renewable energy.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Popescu elaborated on the possibilities surrounding bilateral collaboration.

“There is large potential for cooperation between Romania and Israel in the energy field,” he said. “We want to meet with companies that are willing to invest in Romania. We want to talk about renewables. We want to talk about investment, and we have to buy gas, because the main issue for the next week is reduction of dependence on Russian gas.”

Russia has significantly increased the price of its gas exports in recent weeks, which has led to growing pressure for importing nations to find alternative sources of natural gas. Romania is currently exploring several options, one of which is Israel.

During a meeting with Energy Minister Karin Elharrar, the two “spoke a lot about Israeli gas, and the possibility of exporting Israeli gas to Romania.”

Renewable energy wind turbines as seen next to the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon on January 3, 2021. Northern Golan Heights. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)Renewable energy wind turbines as seen next to the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon on January 3, 2021. Northern Golan Heights. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

Such a deal would be very beneficial for both sides, and maybe even surrounding nations, as Romania is responsible for a gas pipeline to Moldova, which links the latter nation to the greater European power grid.

In terms of practical steps toward a deal, Popescu met with executives from Delek and other leading energy providers in order to explore the logistics of transferring gas to Romania.

“The problem that we have to solve is the infrastructure of transport,” he said. “Pipelines cannot be done so easily or quickly, so the solution is via Egypt. There are [gas] terminals there, and there is close cooperation between Israel and Egypt.”

A gas terminal is currently being built in the Mediterranean Sea that will enable wider export of gas from Israel. Once it is finished, the terminal will likely play a role in any potential long-term deal with Romania.

The Romanian need for gas may only be relevant for a decade or two.

Popescu said, “We want to replace fossil fuels. When I spoke with the minister, I told her about the mix of electricity in Romania. We have almost 20% coal, almost 8% gas, almost 20% nuclear, and the remaining 40% is hydro and renewables. We want to phase out coal by 2032 and use gas as a transitional fuel.”

Israel is useful to Romania for more than just its natural gas. The Start-Up Nation has much to offer in regard to renewable energy innovation. Popescu visited the Israel Export Institute, where he met with several companies and discussed the huge potential of hydrogen energy solutions in Romania’s future.

“I think that’s a huge opportunity for cooperation between [Israeli and Romanian] companies,” he said. “Both countries working together can make a lot of progress in the field of hydrogen, which we see as the fuel of the future.”