Three stereotypes of the Romanian energy establishment

As this article is slated to come out just before the holiday season, it invites to a different kind of reflection on the Romanian energy sector, albeit polemical, in terms of deeper cultural traits of what I call here the „energy establishment” – loosely identified with a few overly influential figures, mostly in public offices and dignities, that over the past 10-15 years were decisive in the making of legislation, regulations, institutions, policies and planning in the energy industry.

They are endorsed, to various degrees, by myriads of backers in ministries, state agencies, academia (mostly emeriti), as well as some media actors.

To be clear, there is no conspiratorial implication in this notion, and no assumption of omnipotence of the „energy establishment,” which has often enough failed in its intentions.

To start with, here are a few questions of some urgency, among many others. Why hasn’t the government been able to make a deal on the Black Sea’s main gas find, almost eight years after its discovery? Why is Romania still so poorly interconnected with its neighbors’ grids, both gas and electric? Why is the government moving one step forward, two steps back with the liberalization of energy markets? How did we get to an obvious deficit of power generation even when the load curve is just 7,000-8,000 MW, while we’re bragging installed capacity of more than 20,000 MW? Why do our politicians keep chasing „white elephants” (Tarnița-Lăpuștești, hydro-power complex at Turnu Măgurele, new lignite power plant in Rovinari) while virtually ignoring network development, digitalization, renewables, storage, and energy efficiency? And why is the Romanian „gas hub” more of a daydream than a project within reach, in spite of the country’s resources, history and infrastructure?

Instead of the usual legal, economic, technical or political explanations, I’m offering a personal formulation of three underlying cultural and mentality stereotypes which, I think, have been revealed in actions, attitudes, statements and decisions made by the „energy establishment.”

Author: Radu Dudău
Co-founder and director of EPG. He is Associate Professor of International Relations at Bucharest University. From 2006 to 2010 he was Deputy Director at the Romanian Diplomatic Institute (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

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