We embarked on this research with several questions in mind. What natural gas has to offer to Romanian consumers, particularly in light of the much discussed discoveries in the Black Sea?
Can natural gas be a transitional fuel in Romania? What will be the role of natural gas in the energy mix of the future as far as consumer supportability and environment impact are concerned? For one year, we have been carrying out the most comprehensive Romanian research on the topic of energy poverty, realizing this complex economic and social issue is not receiving by far the attention it deserves. The authorities failed to take any hard measures after more than six months from the deadline for adopting a National Action Plan for Energy Poverty, given that almost 20% of Romanians live in energy poverty, and merely 5% receive heating subsidies in an average amount of 23 lei per month. More than half of the country’s population provides heating by means of primitive wood-burning stoves, whose prices are both unaffordable and volatile. Can natural gas be an alternative for rural areas? What about for urban areas, where many localities are still not connected to gas utilities and where SACET-type district heating plants are in decline?
Our research is based both on the relevant literature and extended databases on gas supply and building economics, and on the work of national and international experts’ panels which replied to our questions. We gave a critical reading of the National Energy Strategy (2016 edition, and the public consultation draft of September 2018) and of the different regulatory documents and European policies, in order to reach and understanding the future evolution of natural gas in Romania and the potential impact of the various energy policy decisions on consumers.
The analysis reveals natural gas will have a more significant share in the future energy mix than forecasted in the current national energy strategies. We welcome however the 2018 draft of the National Energy Strategy, which refers to a National Gas Program to address the expansion of the natural gas network in rural areas, including as a response to the issue of energy poverty. The statistical-based calculations of energy costs for end consumers and the natural gas network coverage data reveal many opportunities for gas to be not merely a transitional fuel, but also a tool in fighting energy poverty in the broader sense of this term. A set of tools and actions is however necessary to ensure that any additional natural gas resources will have a positive impact on end consumers, a fact which was also stressed by the panel of experts which we consulted for this study.