The energy sector has been facing issue after issue over the past several years with the COVID-19 pandemic, energy crisis and the war in Ukraine, but Chief Executive Officer of OMV Petrom Christina Verchere says they are all actually accelerating the energy transition. “Ultimately, what you want is diversification of sources as well as diversification of supply, because it gives you optionality,” she said at the Energy Transition Europe 2023 conference, organized by Reuters Events.
Most fossil fuel companies in Southeastern Europe are making great strides in decarbonization to meet national and European targets, aware of the changing energy landscape in energy. The oil and fuel sector is particularly active and Romanian OMV Petrom is no exception.
The company, majority-owned by Austria-based OMV, has a goal of installing renewable electricity plants of 1 GW in total capacity by 2030. Most are solar power projects. It is also investing in biofuels, green hydrogen, carbon storage and electric mobility infrastructure.
Verchere: I don’t know any energy company that isn’t focused on the energy transition
In parallel, OMV Petrom counts on its Neptun Deep offshore gas project in the Black Sea as an important factor in energy security. Speaking at the Reuters Events conference Energy Transition Europe 2023 in London, CEO Christina Verchere pointed out that the facility would also enable Romania to export substantial quantities of the fuel to its neighbors, many of which are reliant on imports from other parts of the world.
“Indigenous EU gas is part of the energy security as well. But ultimately, what you want is diversification of sources as well as diversification of supply, because it gives you optionality. And this is why I think the energy transition is very logical in this sense. When you look at the different renewables that will come through that you can build in your country, whereas before you were having to import, to me it makes a lot of sense,” she said.
Energy transition is form of energy security
Verchere expressed the belief that the series of disturbances over the past years – particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, energy crisis and the war in Ukraine – are all actually accelerating the energy transition. “I don’t know any energy company that isn’t focused on the energy transition,” the head of OMV Petrom underscored.
Moreover, decarbonization and energy security go very well together, in her view. The European Union is the largest importer of energy in the world, so the energy transition is a form of energy security as it is best to have one’s own sources, Verchere said. She noted that the EU cut the share of Russian gas to 10% from 40% in just 18 months, and “at quite a cost,” but argued that is the proof it is “incredibly adaptable.”
Verchere agreed with other participants at the conference that the power grid congestion and slow permitting are major hurdles for renewables deployment. Like in most of Europe, the electricity network in Romania needs serious transformation and modernization, she assserted. The grid needs to be able to support more electrification, Verchere warned.
Prosumers have role in boosting grid flexibility
Turning to the concept of prosumers, of which there are already 80,000 in Romania, the head of OMV Petrom said they have a role in grid flexibility. Through their apps they have insight into how much electricity they are producing, consuming and delivering to the grid and know when to charge their electric vehicles, she explained.
Verchere: Customers will become much more savvy in terms of how they use their power
“People are becoming much more aware of how they use energy and therefore how they get it cheaper. The grid needs to be flexible. I think customers will become much more savvy in terms of how they use their power. Which, in my view, will lead to better efficiency,” Verchere said.
Other speakers at the event highlighted the need for digitalization and automation in the electricity market as well, especially in the retail segment. Investors also pointed to major issues in supply chains and the lack of a skilled workforce.