Mathew Bryza: EU-Azerbaijan MoU on strategic energy partnership ‘quite significant’
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the European Union and Azerbaijan on strategic energy partnership is quite significant, the former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and former OSCE Minsk Group co-chair, Mathew Bryza, told News.Az on Tuesday.
"A Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Partnership in the field of energy between the European Union represented by the European Commission and the Republic of Azerbaijan" was signed between Azerbaijan and the European Union in Baku on Monday. The document was inked by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Bryza noted that it is a broad agreement that reflects and balances the primary interests of each party and harmonizes them. “I mean that one of the passages of the document talks about how the parties promise to work together to ensure the stable and predictable delivery of natural gas to the European Union. The main goal of the EU is to get non-Russian natural gas,” the former diplomat said.
He stressed that this agreement in a manner is consistent with the EU’s long-term decarbonization objectives.
“The EU says ‘we want gas, we need it now, but over time we want to consume less gas because we have decarbonization objectives.’ It is also based on the long-term partnership between the sides in the principle of market-oriented pricing. So market-oriented pricing is what Azerbaijan really wants. It wants to know that over time it can rely on that prices determine the energy market rather than governments when selling its natural gas. Azerbaijan also wants to make sure that the EU will indeed continue investing in natural gas infrastructure even as it pursues decarbonization goals. That’s one of the important points,” Bryza said.
The former US diplomat said another important point is that the EU acknowledges natural gas will continue to play an important role in its energy consumption and electricity generation.
“Until 2030 and after 2030, the EU will overtime replace natural gas with renewable energy sources by remaining committed to net zero by 2050. So, the EU is again offering Azerbaijan insurance that at least for the next 8 years, natural gas will be an important part of the EU’s energy sector in terms of consumption. But after that, the EU will start to try to decrease its consumption of natural gas. That’s really important because in recent months, the EU looks like it might be preparing to eliminate natural gas. However, the EU will continue investing in natural gas infrastructure and buying natural gas. Because, obviously it is facing an urgent need to move away from Russian gas,” he added.
Bryza also praised Azerbaijan’s great renewable energy potential.
“Another important point is that there are a lot of discussions in the MoU about renewable energy and cooperation between private sector and public sector companies to develop technologies and capabilities to deliver green energy from Azerbaijan to Europe. This is the big goal of Azerbaijan to increase its wind and solar power generation. Of course, Azerbaijan’s renewable energy potential is enormous for both wind and solar energy. I know that the intensity of the sun in southern parts of Karabakh and in Nakhchivan is really high. Therefore, there is a great potential for solar power. Of course, everyone knows how sustainable and strong wind blows in Absheron Peninsula, Baku and in other parts of Azerbaijan. I think it is really a strong area of cooperation now – renewable energy – going forward between the EU and Azerbaijan,” he said.
Bryza noted that the primary focus of the MoU is delivering more gas from Azerbaijan to the EU now and in the near future. “So, the document talks about the joint commitment of the sides to expand the Southern Gas Corridor into perhaps the Western Balkans. It also talks about the EU’s pledging to continue to find financing for this project. I think it is very important for SOCAR that the EU said it is ready to invest in the expansion of the Southern Gas Corridor.”
Also, Bryza emphasized the importance of developing electricity links for green energy.
“Also interesting to me is the mentioning of the possibility of cooperating to develop electricity links for green energy. I think it is quite significant that the MoU talks about possible electricity connections from the main part of Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan, as well as under the Black Sea,” he said.
The former ambassador said that the EU and Azerbaijan also agreed to remain committed to reducing methane emissions by reducing the amount of natural gas escapes.
“This is a very forward-looking agreement, providing a balance between natural and renewable energy,” he added.
Bryza said another important point in the document is cooperation toward protecting coastlines.
“The MoU also talks about working together to protect coastlines, the environment in general, from energy production waste and oil spills. I think this is a very important point. I hope that Azerbaijan working with the EU can launch regional efforts in the Caspian Sea to protect the Caspian marine environment against further oil spills. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are looking for cooperation in this regard. Cooperation may prevent and minimize the negative impact of oil spills on the Caspian Sea,” he concluded.