As natural gas and oil pipelines from Russia to Europe were disrupted in the wake of the Ukraine Crisis, the European Union (EU) delegation led by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen mobilized for the Eastern European and Balkan countries most affected by this conjuncture. In the search for a solution, eyes have turned to the Caspian Basin in the search for a solution. Azerbaijan has become a prominent country in this regard. The evolving circumstances have shown that this cooperation will not be limited to natural gas. In particular, the “Agreement on a Strategic Partnership in the Field of Green Energy Development and Transmission” signed in Bucharest on December 17, 2022 demonstrated that cooperation will diversify in different areas.
Within the scope of Baku Energy Week held in June 2022, the focus was on natural gas, but it also drew attention to the utilization of the wind energy potential of Lachin and Kelbajar. Subsequently, several agreements were signed with energy companies based in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on alternative energy investments in the Absheron peninsula and the Caspian coast.
At the Baku Energy Forum, a protocol on electricity exports was signed between Azerbaijan and Serbia, and after the visit of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Belgrade in November 2022, Serbian Minister of Mines and Energy Dubravka Jedovic said that Serbia will import electricity from Azerbaijan as of January 2023, thus ensuring the security of the country’s electricity system.
On December 17, 2022, President of Azerbaijan Mr. Aliyev, Prime Minister of Romania Nicolae Chuke, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban signed the “Agreement on Strategic Partnership in the Field of Green Energy Development and Transmission” in Bucharest. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and European Commission President Leyen were also present at the signing ceremony.
Under the agreement, this 1100 km route under the Black Sea is expected to be the world’s longest underwater electricity cable. In his speech at the signing ceremony, Aliyev said the following:
“Today, we start to build another energy bridge from Azerbaijan to Europe. Our country is planning to become an important supplier of electric energy to Europe, mainly green energy. Azerbaijan’s renewable energy potential is more than 27 gigawatt of wind and solar power on shore, and 157 gigawatt of wind power in Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. Together with one of our country`s strategic investor, we plan to implement 3 gigawatt of wind and one gigawatt of solar power by 2027, 80 percent of which will be exported. By 2037, we plan to create an additional capacity of at least 6 gigawatts.”
Oliver Varheyli, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, emphasized the importance of the project in the following words:
“I am always happy when I see how our plans are coming true. The construction of a 17-billion-euro underwater cable for the Black Sea energy supply will bring mutual economic and social benefits.”
The high altitude of the territories recaptured after the Karabakh Victory provides Baku with additional resources in the field of wind energy, while the Caspian region and the Absheron peninsula offer alternative energy production opportunities for the country. In the new geopolitical conditions that emerged in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian War, in line with its goal of becoming an effective power in its region, Azerbaijan prioritizes the development of non-oil and non-natural gas fields, which have an 8% share in foreign trade, while green energy exports also come to the fore at this point. In addition to the Gulf countries, companies based in the United Kingdom and Australia are also noteworthy regarding cooperation in this field.
In the aftermath of the Ukraine Crisis, the EU took the initiative and started to adopt various models, especially in light of the lack of diversity in the energy suppliers of Eastern European countries. At this point, the “4+1 format (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary+EU)” followed in the “Agreement on Strategic Partnership in the Field of Green Energy Development and Transmission” also creates an opportunity to develop the Eastern Partnership Program. The parties to the agreement also left the door open in their post-ceremony statements, with the expectation that the format would be improved.
Kazakhstan is one of the prominent countries at this point. While alternative energy constitutes one of the important topics in the reform packages of Kazakhstan President Kassym Jomart Tokayev, joint projects are being carried out especially with companies from Gulf countries. It is also possible that other Balkan, Central and Eastern European countries with recent energy problems will also participate in the project.
While the two countries of the green energy-themed agreement are members of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), this protocol means putting into practice the principle of partnership in the field of alternative energy emphasized in Turkic World Vision 2040. In addition, the agreement will contribute to the development of cooperation between the EU and the OTS.
Gulf countries, which have recently increased their cooperation and capital investments with post-Soviet countries, are also adapting to the new conjuncture. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar are particularly prominent in these initiatives.
In conclusion, the Ukraine Crisis has created new partnerships in the energy market and increased the importance of the Central Corridor. At this point, the development of new formats, both country-based and organization-oriented, seems possible.
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