Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Thank you very much Nikos. Secretary General Sdoukou, thank you for being with us today. It is a true honor to speak to you, as well as to my fellow panelists, colleagues and friends. And I would like to especially thank the Hellenic Association for the Economy of Energy for inviting me again. I think this is my fifth symposium, so I’ll try to say something new, but I also really appreciate the platform you provide to address some of these very important issues.
The theme of this year’s event, âLooking to the Future with Optimismâ, is truly a perfect description of how I see the changing energy landscape in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. Energy cooperation continues to be one of the strengths of the US-Greece relationship. Just looking at the past year, we can easily report progress on several large energy projects, such as TAP, IGB and FSRU Alexandroupoli. We are also seeing an increase in US investment in Greece in renewables, battery storage and electric mobility. These are all long-term strategic investments whose benefits have not changed due to COVID-19.
And as we continue to develop our strong energy policy relationship, we must also take into account the climate crisis, something that all of us who experienced last summer in Athens, the terrible fires outside of the United States. city, in Evia, in ancient Olympia, does not need to be convinced. The Biden-Harris administration has placed the climate challenge and clean energy transition at the forefront of US international energy policy. President Biden, my boss Secretary of State Blinken, the President’s Climate Envoy, my former boss Secretary John Kerry and Energy Secretary Granholm have made it clear that climate change is the challenge of our time. . It is also an opportunity to make historic progress in terms of global prosperity and quality of life.
As we underlined at the Energy Ministry’s Partnership Summit for Transatlantic Energy and Climate Cooperation in Warsaw last week, we are setting new goals for bold, but achievable, advances in technology. new generation, including hydrogen, carbon capture, industrial fuels and energy. storage room. The United States is working with our partners around the world, and in particular this transatlantic community, to elevate our collective ambitions, create jobs for millions of people and protect the planet.
Last week in Warsaw, Minister Skrekas had the first of many upcoming Cabinet-level meetings between the Biden-Harris administration and the Mitsotakis government, where Secretary Granholm underlined Greece’s essential role as a partner energy of the United States. In particular, Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ decision to phase out all lignite-fired power plants by 2028, if not 2025, and his plan to target a significant portion of Greece’s 32 billion EU stimulus funds towards Greece. clean energy, as Secretary General Sdoukou explained, demonstrates Greece’s clear leadership in this area.
Natural gas has also enabled Greece and its neighbors to reduce their emissions and speed up the phase-out of lignite electricity. When completed, the new Mytilineos natural gas power plant in Aghios Nikolaos will be one of the largest and most efficient in Europe, with state-of-the-art GE gas turbines that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to lignite-fired power plants. These high-efficiency GE gas turbines will also be the heart of the Alexandroupoli natural gas power plant which will be jointly owned by North Macedonia.
As countries in this region shift to cleaner energy sources, Greece is also positioned to be among the top European producers of wind and solar energy. I know Minister Skrekas, Secretary General Sdoukou and their teams are working hard on further reforms in the renewable energy sector, as well as frameworks for critical areas like offshore wind and energy storage. . These are technologies where American companies lead, and the Embassy is committed to facilitating American investment. I am proud that the US footprint in the green energy sector in Greece is growing, with companies like 547 Energy, Fortress Investment Group, Ameresco, Invenergy and Jasper Energy bringing US investment funds and US technologies to the market. Greek market.
The growth of the green energy sector benefits both of our countries. For example, there is a Greek-American company Advent, with headquarters in Boston and offices in Patras. He is researching the next generation of fuel cell technologies. It has been a real privilege during my time here in Greece to see Advent grow from a rambling startup to a growing NASDAQ-listed player in the international energy technology space. I was also happy to meet last summer with the CEO of Sunlight, which has an impressive large production facility in Xanthi and has also started a battery assembly plant in North Carolina. Sunlight joins other Greek companies like Raycap in Drama, which in addition to supporting the energy transition here in Greece, are creating jobs and economic opportunities in the United States.
We have come to a time when American and Greek perspectives and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans are more aligned than ever. And the growth of our bilateral energy relationship naturally translates into benefits for the entire region, where we share a common vision to advance peace, stability and prosperity. A few weeks ago in Thessaloniki, we demonstrated how much we appreciate this regional element of energy cooperation, with visits from my good friends and fellow ambassadors from Sofia, Tirana and Skopje, as well as the head of the State Department for energy issues, to meet with Minister Skrekas, Deputy Minister Fragogiannis and major Greek energy companies. This continued engagement and cooperation is important because energy diversification, transition and strategy are fundamental issues that will define the economic growth and security of our countries for decades to come.
Ensuring a secure energy supply is one of the pillars of the international energy policy of the Biden-Harris administration. That’s why Secretary Blinken appointed Amos Hochstein as the State Department’s senior adviser on energy security. Amos is a longtime friend of Greece and he recognizes the essential role Athens can play in ensuring energy security in Eastern Europe. As Special Envoy Hochstein pointed out, point gases are reaching record levels and there is a real risk that parts of Europe will not have enough gas for the winter, as supplies from Russia are inexplicably low compared to previous years and what they have the capacity to deliver. Greece, with path in the Revithoussa terminal, is part of the solution to this challenge.
In the Western Balkans, Greece quickly normalized its relations with its northern neighbors thanks to the Prespes agreement. Greece and the Balkan countries are now collaborating on energy security and diversification, striving to break Russia’s gas monopoly by jointly investing in projects like the Alexandroupoli FSRU and IGB. I am very happy that gas transport operators in Greece and the region are looking to take advantage of existing networks like the Trans-Balkan pipeline to bring gas to markets as far north as Ukraine and Moldova. This would further reduce Gazprom’s monopoly and Russia’s political influence over Eastern Europe.
We firmly believe, as Minister Dendias and other Greek leaders stressed, that energy management should be a path of cooperation and not of conflict. This is why the United States strongly supports Greece’s efforts to deepen its ties with Israel and Cyprus through the 3 + 1 framework. We were proud to host the 3 + 1 Renewable Energy Technical Working Group, where we discuss how we can do more together in areas such as hydrogen technology and cybersecurity for infrastructure. Our initial energy cooperation in the 3 + 1 framework is now expanding into new areas, such as technology and the partnership on proactive fire strategy and prevention, following the devastating forest fires this summer. Collaborative agreements such as the 3 + 1 Initiative and the East Med Gas Forum enhance stability and prosperity in this region. That is why we are also helping Greece to establish connections along a north-south axis through its participation in the Three Seas Initiative, which promises to further integrate the region into European energy and communication networks.
In addition to the 3 + 1, the Three Seas and other forums, Greece’s growing cooperation with Egypt is important to promote greater economic integration and greater stability in the eastern Mediterranean. Greece can increase its role as a regional energy hub through its proposed natural gas and electricity links with Egypt, which will also facilitate greater penetration of renewables and diversification of energy sources. in south-eastern Europe.
President Biden underscored the United States’ commitment to the transatlantic relationship and the relationship between the United States and Greece as we face together today’s global challenges, from climate change to the pandemic and the threats to regional energy security and political stability. This is why the United States is so determined to strengthen and deepen our ties with Greece, which are stronger than ever, and to strengthen Greece’s role as an energy hub and leader in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the the Balkans.
Building on 200 years of friendship between our countries, of which our strong energy partnership is a key and dynamic facet, we are working together to achieve a common vision of a stable and secure future for this region.