Taking action and Romania's energy transition interview Alene Tenaa. Ca episode 71. The energy transition requires a ground up approach to move from a fossil fueled dominated energy system to one based on renewables and sustainable energy production. This requires community involvement. This week we speak with Alene tenacity, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Romania. You may ask why Romania seems so far away, I think for most people, but if the energy transition is going to happen and be a success, it has to face the reality of a country like Romania. There's different perspectives we can apply for Romania from the EU side. Romania is receiving funds from the EU is just transition mechanism has a lot of challenges phasing out coal and helping coal communities I've written about this in the past. From the US side, it appears a good country to foster new small scale nuclear power reactors. And for Europe's gas security, there are offshore deposits in the Black Sea that still can be tapped. In addition, it has Europe's largest onshore wind farm, with even more renewable energy potential still to be harvested. It is a microcosm of energy complexity that other countries also face. But the energy transition still is stagnating. So on one hand, Romania has a lot going for it. And on the other hand, it has huge government and social challenges that make the energy transition falter. At the end of this episode, you'll get a greater understanding of the challenges the country faces, and an in depth understanding of one person who is working hard to move Romania Ford in the energy transition. As you'll hear from Alene fossil fuels are in his family, and dominated the city where he grew up, he's experienced firsthand the pollution of gas and oil, and why the future is not fossil fuels. This episode is exciting, to listen to learn about Alina, I really enjoyed the interview with him, and his own his own personal experiences. So it's personal stories really gives you a perspective of how he grew up in the city, and his education, and then why now he's working for Greenpeace. And you'll learn about the Romania struggle in the energy transition. Before moving on, we have big news. This week, we are launching the repowering leadership in European energy and food summer school. Let me repeat that we are launching the repowering leadership in European energy and food summer school. This is done with a Central European University Summer School University Program. And with the Open Society university network, you can find a link to the call for applications in the show notes. But in short, it's eight days of learning about the energy transition and the connection with food and leadership. So we're teaching leadership skills, we're teaching about food security and energy security, and essentially the nexus of that. I'm super excited. We have amazing professors and instructors coming we have some fantastic field trips. If you are interested in this topic, particularly if you're early in your career, maybe working for a consulting company, doing a PhD possibly masters have some experience in the energy sector. We would love to have your applications the end of July. And it's going to be a days of lots of fun and intense learning. That's for sure. I'm so excited about our entire program. A final note the This interview was done for my current role as the Open Society University Network Senior Fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the funding was generously provided to produce the podcast until the end of 2022. And the funding was provided to travel to interview like Alene a range of experts about the current energy crisis and how it's impacting different countries around Europe. I'll be reading more about this in 2023. And I'm really excited to just sit at home and write the intent of the my energy 2050 podcast is to spread the knowledge about how the energy system can assist our transition towards a greener future. But the content of each episode is great for teaching research and identifying how you can assist this energy transition. And now for this week's episode, I'm here today with Eileen Tanase Climate and Energy campaigner at Greenpeace Romania. So Alene Welcome to the My energy 2050 podcast. Welcome in. Thank you for having me here. Now, I'm really excited to talk to you about a variety of issues. And I so far on the podcast, I haven't focused too much an NGOs and I would say active activists on the environmental and energy side so that's one reason I'm really happy to have you on the podcast today. And we're gonna be talking about pro
And but maybe before we begin to do that you could explain about your background, your environmental engineer. And why did you choose that topic? And how does it inform your work now, but mainly, yeah.
So I, first of all I studied geography is the base, it's a bachelor degree. So that's where I got my love for nature. And yeah, visiting all the beautiful sites of Romania. And then after that, I have a master at an oil and gas University in ploys. And that's where I got my environmental engineering degree. So I grew up employers, which is the oil and gas capital of Romania, to quite polluted city. I mean, the air pollution is, is pretty bad. We have three oil, oil refineries around the city. So they I grew up in a very polluted environment, and I wanted to change something. So that's why I joined Greenpeace.
Wow. And how did your education as an environmental and I just want to compliment you for being a geographer, I'm also a geographer, so a bachelor's, master's and PhD so. So yeah, it really brings you out into the world and let you observe things nature, the urban environment and have this perspective. But how did your university studies? Because if you're looking at the oil and gas sector, and then you have this technical capability to understand the sector quite well? How does how does that? I mean, why didn't you join an oil company? But let's put the question there?
It's a good question. Well, it's also my father worked in the oil and gas industry for many years. He's now retired. Basically, I, I didn't want to join the bad force, let's say and then I wanted to work on the good side. So that's why I chose the the environmental NGOs and to fight for climate justice, let's say,
okay, and your dad, and he would come from home from work and speak about work, I would guess.
Yeah, most of the times he he even worked abroad in places like Iraq and Kazakhstan. But let's say he, he wasn't an engineer. So he didn't have a university degree. He was like, a pipe fitter. So okay, he was just telling me about how he connected pipes for the oil and gas industry.
And what what did he think about you joining Greenpeace?
Well, he, he's quite progressive. I mean, he sees that at some point, fossil fuels will end and there needs to be something in to replace that. And he's, he's on my side when, when I propose, let's say, renewable projects instead of old fossil fuel projects.
Okay. So you come from a community, as he said, That's really affected by pollution, the oil and gas sector. And so you see firsthand the impact that the sector has very close, maybe you could describe that more about growing up in the community and other families or businesses associated with that.
Well, Ploiesti situated in the Prahova. County, which is a quite, I mean, it's quite dense. It's full of oil and gas wells, let's say. And yeah, I grew up seeing them in there is a general landscape, let's say at some point, we were even playing around them. And the first problem, or the first thing that hit me was the air pollution. So there is this specific smell around the city, if you will travel that in that area, you will notice as soon as you enter because of those oil fields, I mean, the oil and gas wells, also the oil refineries. So yeah, that was the biggest the biggest thing that threw me not drew my attention, but the biggest thing that kept me focused on in growing up the industry when was declining a bit so there was a lot of oil wells that were not producing anymore, so they were supposed to be closed, but they were not even close. Close. And at some point there were even some huge accidents. Some kids actually was a kid that died in an oil well, because of the year of of the gases that were coming out from that well, so yeah, there was a big scandal in Romania. The there was even a lawsuit against the company and In the end, the company was found guilty for that murder.
And what would you say about maybe more recent times and that well, because now it's been privatized? It's what owned by own Bay in general? Has there been a lot of improvement in the sector? Does that dissuade you from that the future is oil and gas, or how does that affect?
There are some improvements, I can talk about an improvement that we contributed to like two years ago. We had, we had the camera, I was supposed to see methane leaks. And we visited some of the wells, some of the oil and gas wells around the city. And in particular, there are because because it's because we have a history in exploiting and extracting oil and gas in that region. There were some oil, oil and gas wells that were situated in a city so very close to some block of flats, some kinders kindergartens, and we detected some methane leaks on that spot. We, we published it, we presented it to the media and the company reacted to it and visiting the site. Another after a year, we noticed that well was closed, so there were no meeting leakages anymore. And yeah, I could say that's like a small contribution. But yeah, I can see my work taking effect.
So you're able to really, I don't know how much education played into that. But you're able to use your education through Yeah, I don't even call it actor activist action, because it's kind of a simple thing to do. Yeah. investigational, it's okay investigation to go out and see what's actually happening on the ground, just because you're concerned with it, right? You want to go out and see, what is the impact and document the impact? And you're able to do that by using your education. And I would say your your focus and your motivation, to how do you how do you frame it as a to protect the environment? Is it to benefit society? How do you frame what you're doing,
I think could be both of them. So first of all, I'm thinking about the society. So I guess nobody wants to live in a polluted environment. And that affects the society. And going back to my geography study, there is also this love of nature. And we as we are living in this climate crisis, and there is a connection. Yeah, I mean, the climate crisis is affecting both nature and the society. So yeah, I'm trying to yet take part in this fight and fight for the good, cause.
Okay, good. And maybe I can expand out a bit more, and then we'll get back. This is way to move into the Romanian context of it more because you bring out the climate crisis. And how do you see the climate crisis unfolding in Romania? And what is being done to? Yeah, because it's such a big topic, climate crisis, what how do you interpret what is the climate crisis in Romania?
Well, when you talk to the average people, or the average person on the street, they will probably say that our co2 emissions dropped very high. During I mean, comparing to the communist time, or our highest co2 footprint was in 1990. And if you look at what's happening now, it's almost 47%. Down, so it dropped a lot. But that that didn't happen because of a plan or some strategic thinking it happened just because yeah, the industry failed. I mean, the industry was not there anymore. It wasn't, it was It wasn't consider profitable or so it had to be to be closed. So that's, that's what the general narrative is that we are still better than the rest of the world and some other countries need to do more than we do. But still, we, if you're looking to the what the Europe has to do until 2030, we have to reach like 55% reduction. That's still I mean, we still have some thumb image seems to be reduced. And unfortunately, our politicians talk about growing the industry and we have some still can emit more, more co2 Until, until we the trend will go down.
And so it's not necessarily about the emissions level itself. Maybe you could describe maybe the benefits. And if this is how you see it the benefits of doing more, rather than just doing it to limit the emissions?
I don't think I get
Okay, so so. So what I'm implying is that by taking action to reduce emissions, it's like this quantitative goal that's there. And okay, Romania can do a bit more to meet this quantitative goal. Because, yeah, I mean, since the fall of communism, and here, it was really rough, rough under communism, and then rough afterwards as well. That, yeah, be the efforts to go into to reduce it to the pledges that are now are not that major, basically, maybe I can say it that way. But their side benefits as well in implementing measures to reduce emissions, like reading more renewables or energy efficiency. So, but why? Yeah, okay. So maybe I'm implying too much is so for you? What are the benefits of actually reducing emissions?
Well, first of all, we're talking about not only not only a climate crisis, but a biodiversity crisis. So reducing emissions is also helping the nature let's say, plants and animals. And also like human beings, because there are some places on this planet where temperatures are getting too, too high to live in that area. And also, that would benefit those those communities. Do Yeah, I guess that's like, my general, my general view on this. Okay.
And you bring up biodiversity. And in Romania, there's quite okay. A lot of countries there's a lot of biodiversity. But here you have quite you have the sea, you have amazing mountains. And so And do you have old growth forests that in the past were protected? And I know, there's a lot of effort to stop illegal logging, for example, in Romania. Maybe you could tell us a bit about that those efforts to stop illegal logging and why is it such a crisis in Romania?
Well, as you mentioned, the Carpathians here are, I mean, there's a huge part of the Carpathians that covered the Romania let's say and they are huge forests, on the on those Carpathian Mountains. And unfortunately, there is only a small percentage of that, although of those forests that is being protected. And yet, because of that, we have some problems, let's say with the bear population, because of the of their area is getting more smaller and smaller because of human activities. They are more popular. I mean, they are more present not popular in some communities where people live. So there is this debate about do we have too many bears? Should we start looking at that population? And maybe I don't know how to do it yet maybe.
Like killing them? Yeah. Yeah. Colleen, Colleen would be the technical word.
Yeah. And or should we protect more areas and give them more spaces to move and leave? So yeah, when I talk about biodiversity in Romania, that's the big that's the first thing that comes into my mind like the bear population and the problems around it. And yeah, of course, the illegal logging is a huge problem here. There were some reports but done like Greenpeace, that I mean, there was the satellite investigation and we found out that we're losing I don't remember exactly the numbers but we're losing two or three hectares per hour of forest and and a big part of that is done illegally. So yeah, that we're actively campaigning on forest as well and we demand for like higher are higher higher protection areas for Yeah, for the, for biodiversity and also, like the newest demand that we're having is to stop building new forest roads like that are used for to explore the the mountains and yeah, the forest.
Yes. Oh, I've never heard of that. And okay, so by yeah building the forest roads and they're able to take out the trees more.
And yeah, we don't at least we don't want that to happen in the next few years. So there is this moratorium that maybe at least in the next five years, there won't be any new roads in the forest build and you can use the existing one but no more new no more going into new areas.
So this is a potential moratorium or it is a moratorium no need
to put them were demanding. It's not happening. But we, we hope and we expect we expect it to happen.
Okay. Okay. And then maybe we can change a little bit and talk about the gas and gas sector. And Romania produces, as I understand about 70% of its own gas use
roughly the second biggest producer in Europe after Netherlands.
Wow. And it has a long history to have gas production and oil production as well. And for Greenpeace, why why is gas an issue? And let me just frame it like this, right? Maybe prompt you a bit or tease you a bit. Because gas we could say for some countries is seen as a clean source of energy because it replaces coal, which we have to talk about. And Romania has these resources of gas. So why is gas not a good choice for the future?
Well, it tests it has is there is a connection with color. So recently Romania agreed on coal phase out plan. And I guess until 2032, we're supposed to phase out the all electric coal electricity production and close all the all the mines. And there comes the question, what do you put there instead of instead of coal, and unfortunately, politicians do talk about converting coal plants to gas plants and maybe building new gas plants and expanding the gas grid to connect more consumers being it industrial or household. They also talk about your new gas reserves, onshore and offshore. And it's for us, it's obviously that gas is a fossil fuel. And first of all, at some point, it will be it at some point we the resources won't be there anymore. Secondly, it's quite expensive. And as we've seen with the war in Ukraine, the prices went high this year, in the nobody expected that, and they are supposed to stay high in the in the next couple of years. So there is also this economical aspect of it. And as I was talking earlier, is not that you burn gas and release carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And that's all now you also have you also have those methane, fugitive emissions that are happening through the whole chain from extraction till till you burn it. And, yeah, methane is much more potent gas than carbon dioxide for therefore it's contributed, contributing to the climate crisis. And unfortunately, as we have very old infrastructure, since we, since we began, we began extracting gas. Yeah, I guess it's 100 years ago or so. And the infrastructure is quite old. And it's, it's very common that you see meeting leaks all around it being at the well or the transport pipeline or the gas storage. And we investigated that. And we found evidence of like methane leaks all around all around the chain. So going back to call the year we are phasing out coal and the question comes, what do you put there and our politician mentioned gas, but then again, at some point, we will have to get rid of all fossil fuels. And there is this narrative that we're we're saying that we cannot afford to transition. So instead of instead of using gas is a transitional fuel and then have another transition from gas to renewables, why not going from coal directly to renewables. So that's, that's why we're, we're opposing guests, because it's, it's too expensive, it comes too late is a solution for the climate crisis, as we see in the, in the offshore gas deposits in the Black Sea. The company is new, that those resources are there, like many years ago, but still there is no decision of going after that. And if the decision will come next year, media are the companies say that they will take a decision, if they want to go or not for that gas, they will still need three or four years to develop the infrastructure. And it's roughly in 2020 27 or 2030, that they will start production, they will start the production there.
That's in our lakes. But yeah, I don't, let's say 2035. Right. And
we need solutions right now in the crisis now and we need it today or next year.
So do you think the crisis now that with the high gas prices? Yeah, because I mean, one hand, it's, it's really the high prices affect households, and in a bad way with the high prices, so just want to acknowledge that. But on the other hand, when it comes to this energy transition, that is a geopolitical crisis, that's now an energy crisis, and the high prices? How do you see that changing the debate in Romania about? Do you find it easier maybe to engage in this conversation that we should go straight to renewables? Rather than using gas as a gas bridge?
No, actually, since the worst started is becoming more difficult to oppose gas because not only Romania, but the whole European Union is looking to diversify, diversify, its suppliers. So I would say that a lot of stakeholders are looking at Romania and looking at the gas reserves in the Black Sea and maybe consider it, like, good for the energy security of the region. And yeah, it's quite hard as an activist to, to oppose to pose that narrative.
Earlier, I just want to say this is exactly why I'm here in Bucharest, to meeting with you is to find out about that, because I haven't read that anywhere. I haven't heard that from anyone. But of course, it makes complete sense that the high price of gas would actually drive extraction of more gas from Romania that has these reserves and untapped reserves in the Black Sea, because they can make so much money off of it, then, and it can just be fed into the current pipeline.
Yeah, I mean, the thing is that the reserves there are not that big. We, we just had a study recently by done by a think tank in Romania expert forum that did talk about the Black Sea reserves. And in the study says that even if we're taking all the guests, all the all the guests that it's there and put it in the market, it will only last for 10 to 15 years, only if you compare it to the Romanian consumption. But yeah, we're, we're, we're connected with other countries, and you cannot use that gas only in Romania. It's a free market. So you can send it everywhere. So it's, it won't last for that long. And it's also not economically feasible to I guess, to close on gas rig after only after 10 years.
Yeah, right. So then maybe actually, for the companies that would invest in offshore, which is expensive anyways, it's actually not worth it. If there's only say, a decade or more, how have you been extracted.
That's why I guess they are taking a lot of time for this decision. It was supposed to be taken at the end of this year, but they just postpone it to, to the meat to the middle of next year. And also there were some legislative legislation that was changed. The offshore law was discussed in the summer in Romania, and it was mainly about the the economics of it. So the companies are not are not very happy that most of the guests should go to Romania. In the US, there are some taxes that are being applied. And I guess that's why they're, they're not taking a decision on now.
So if you want you can correct me I didn't expect this where our conversation would go but but basically the idea of this tax or the A law around the offshore is that what is the gas is mainly supposed to be used in Romania. And then there's additional taxes, yes, as well.
And this is also the narrative that the politicians are using. I mean, we have this gas there, and it's supposed to come to the Romanian market and the prices should go go low. And it's, it's
quite as as investors, they're like,
Yeah, of course, they are not happy with I mean, it's a free market. And each, you should sell you should be able to sell it, where you have the biggest price, right?
Yes. So actually, the, how do we say this, that I'm trying to be polite and diplomatic. So so the missteps, and I would say, from an investor point of view, the missteps of the Romanian government, and not just in the gas, the field of gas, right, but other areas of the energy sector, that makes it as investors because just yesterday found out that this week, and now is withdrawing from from Romania distribution company, and, and one of the polite ways as well, it's just a global reshape of the company, but actually, maybe it's due also to the policy environment regulatory environment in Romania. So maybe the the actions of the government actually dissuade investment into fossil fuels. Could is that that interpretation,
if this was to be in the past, until the recent legislation change of the of the offshore law, I mean, the the laws were even harder or harsher for investors. I mean, two or three years ago, right now, the politician says that it's more profitable or more acceptable for for companies to go for that gas. But still, as I said, there, they are not satisfied yet. And the decision will be taken. Next year,
okay. And then maybe we switch to coal phase out, I'm really interested in this. So does that mean they're, I think, maybe they're going to shut down all the coal plants in Romania or
get in. There was, there was this recovery and resilience plan that was that was discussed, right after the pandemic. And that's where we saw our first commitment to call phase out and right now is being discussed, and it's put into national legislation. So there is this decarbonisation law that was recently discussed in the Parliament, and they amended it a bit. So it at first it was 2030, that they they plan to have a complete phase out and 2032 was to close the mind and to clean the area. But right now, they they change it a bit and said that 2032 is the is the last year that the coal plant will will be producing electricity. And yeah, and and it's, it's a calendar. So there are some coal plants that are supposed to be closing earlier than 2032. But still, the last one will be closed in 220 32. And what they what they did change recently in this in this decarbonisation law was that actually they are not closing they're staying in, in reserve. So if the transport and system operator like we it's called Trans electrical Romania, if they are calling for a call, you need to be be start to be started in producing energy, it will happen. So yeah, when not very happy with that, because we know that the companies, the coal companies are receiving money for staying in that reserve. So first of all, they receive money for staying in standby and being ready. And secondly, they receive money when they start the unit and producing energy. I think it's quite profitable for them. Yeah, but yeah, we're closely monitoring this and see how we how it will go Yeah, can be
really proud because we've had periods when they need more electricity. So the price would be high, actually, usually in
the in the winter. In the where we have like the cold temperatures that were the energy consumption is going up and also in the summer with the hot days. That's like the peak consumption for our country. So I expect maybe they will, even if, even after they were closed. Let's say that they won't be operating like many hundreds of hours. For a year, but instead they will be couple of couple of days let's say.
And so there's not any like hard coal black coal power plants that will use imported coal.
Right now, I mean the the biggest coal operator is Oltenia energy complex which is like lignite operator and lignite cannot be transported for very long distances. So we have a lot of open, open link Mayas, open cut mines, for lignite. And it's produced locally. For the heart coal, there were a lot. Also there were a lot of hard coal mines, but many of them were closed, I guess only four of them are, are open right now. And the on which two are supposed to close, I guess at the end of next year. So that's, that's the part where call could be important. So I expect our call, maybe to begin to be imported in in the next few years until Yeah, we'll we'll phase out and close the plant as well.
Okay, so So and then the government was looking at gas to replace that generation? And what about their view on renewables? Because I would say maybe, from your perspective, and a more environmental perspective, that renewables actually have a place in the energy mix.
Yeah. Unfortunately, on since 2015, there weren't any big investments done in Romania. So we have pretty much the same renewable capacity as we had five or six years ago. And that's, that's because there was this support scheme at that point that was very profitable. I think it was one of the most profitable in Europe. So we had a lot of investors coming to Romania, India, investing in big waves and wind farms and big solar parks. Actually, the biggest wind farm is in Romania, it's close to the Black Sea. It's called cultural lag. fontanella. And, yeah, since 2015, when the Support Scheme was ended, there weren't any investors that came to have like big projects. But if you look right now, renewable can renewable energies can, can handle them, the market, let's say without support scheme. So investors are keen to come to Romania, and yet go for big projects, projects is just that there are some legislative barriers that are in their way. And that's why we don't see we don't see the development of of, of it
as purposeful barriers?
Well, some of them, yes, could be, but some of them are, let's say, legit. I mean, we still, we still have this law where you can install like big renewable projects on agriculture land bigger than I don't know exactly the area, but it's bigger than x square meters. We consider that it's good, let's say and we see that renewable should be produced decentralized. And that's why we're now campaigning for prosumers. Like small producers and consumers of energy. We're also pushing for the energy community concept where people can associate and produce and sell and sell their electricity. So yeah, big projects are helping, of course, but we see the future is like distributed and everybody should have solar panels on their, on their houses. Let's see.
So these energy communities, maybe you could describe how those or or the structure of those are, you know, the unique because they're different in many different locations and everything and how our energy communities scene are structured in Romania.
It's a very new concept. We're trying to popularize it and the thing we noticed that I mean, there is this renewable energy directive two, two coming from the European Commission that was not transposed into national legislation. They I mean, we are just analyzing how they are planning to transpose it and to make sure that the energy community's rights are there and will be will be kept as it was. It was designed in the first instance instance. So I think there is only one euro. There's only one. And actually it's an energy cooperative in Romania, but it's not the Romanian one. It's a European one. But it's, it's, it's situated in Romania. So yeah, we're trying to
popularize what does that mean? It's a European one, but it's situated in Romania.
Because I mean, the legislation right now, I don't think it allows you to create a cooperative in Romania. But still, you you can. I don't know exactly how to put it is Natick, not exactly my topic, but my colleague can really help. It's reduced is registered as a European one, but it's operated in Romania.
Okay. So they accepted the Romanian authorities. Yeah, I love it.
Yeah, but yeah, an energy cooperative doesn't necessarily mean that every member has solar power solar panels on their houses. I mean, an energy cooperative can even sell energy buying it from, I don't know, whatever place they find. And it's just that the profits go to the to the members of the cooperative instead of like big corporations.
Okay. Okay. And Greenpeace as an overall. So you talked about communities and distributive energy systems. So this is, I mean, how do you expand on this? Because what does this mean? So? Or what, what is the preference is? So actually, let me reframe that a bit more. Because why, why does the solution for the energy system and a much more sustainable one that's low carbon, come from the community, rather than through large scale projects?
Well, as I said earlier, also, like big projects do help like the in the transition, and they have a role there as well. But we believe that the energy should be produced and consumed very close to the end, should be consumed very close to the place where it was produced. And promoting this, we realize that the Romanian grid is not really designed for that. And it could be the problem of many Eastern European countries where there was it was this big centralized system where we had like big producers in some parts of the country. And unfortunately, the consumers were in the other part of the country, and you had to build these big transmission lines. But that didn't cover the whole country. So right now, there is this narrative that the, the politicians are pushing that we cannot afford more renewable energy in the grid being produced by big wind farms, or solar parks, or by prosumers, because of the grid, because the grid cannot take more energy that, that it's already there, that it's yeah, that it's there. And it was also, I mean, this problem was persisted also we, during 2010 2015, where we had that support scheme for big renewables, and most of them went for the Black Sea shores, or for double Raja part of Romania. And that's where we also have the nuclear plant and the area got really congested. So right now, the authorities are talking how to take that energy from that area and distributed to the whole country. So we need better grids, and we need it to cover as much as as the as much as as much area as possible in Romania, and that will also allow big and small producers to connect to the grid. And yeah, that will help the the transition process
and that now, so we're talking about the transition and the grid itself, maybe we talk about a little bit about the future, and for example, around nuclear power. So Romania has a long history with nuclear power. And I'm just going to assume Greenpeace as opposed to this nuclear power. But what is the debate now about the future of nuclear power in Romania, particularly around these small scale reactor designs? And how do you how do communities see that are and how does green Do you see that in Romania?
Well on that we have a nuclear power plant that Chad, Nevada and it was supposed to have four units, only two of them were built. So there is the discussion of building the additional two reactors there. number three and number four. And that was the debate for many years. It was more popular around elections, but then it went down. So they didn't advance that much. At some point. There were private investors that that were you interested? They, they resigned, then they were the Chinese investors that they were interested, they resigned as well. Now, recently, last year at Corp I think Romania signed a memorandum of understanding with some American companies also for the the two projects, the number three and number four, he Nevada, but also the small nuclear reactor. So that was the first time when we heard about, about this topic of SMRs. And since then, the topic developed very fast. And it was this year that we found out that there is this proposed site for the first small nuclear reactor plant in Romania, actually, it's supposed to hold six of those small nuclear reactors. It's, it's placed in an area where there is where there was this former coal power plant that was shut down and their narrative is that the connections already there. So they don't, it was supposed it's supposed to be cheaper for them. But the population was really outraged because there was no public consultation for for choosing that, that specific location. And yeah, we investigated and apparently, we found out that this technology is not very different from the old nuclear power plant, it comes with the same drawbacks. And the main one that we're we're talking about is the the radioactive waste, and there is there is no place in Romania for a permanent radioactive waste. What they are using at the church, Nevada, the big nuclear power plant is story. It's storing the waste in the site of the of the nuclear plant. And there was this discussion about building a permanent deposit but I guess nobody wants such thing in their backyard. So that the discussion did he didn't advance that that fast. So yeah, as I said, it comes with the salt, same drawbacks is the is a big nuclear, nuclear power plant. So it's not only the waste, it's all it's also the fuel. We have some Uranium reserves in Romania. But yeah, they are. They at some point, they will finish and this this makes me talk about the biggest Uranian exporter to you, which is Russia. And, of course, we nobody wants to be dependent. Neither on gas nor or uranium from, from Russia. So that's another drawback.
I just want to correct you Hungary actually does depend on Russian nuclear technology and Russian gas.
I've heard I've heard recently that whatever. Hungary is doing an energy everybody should do the exact opposite. So that's really true. Yeah, completely true.
And when it comes to the Why was the community surprised by this decision?
Because they they just found out in the media that their city is supposed to host this small nuclear power plant, and there were some politicians from that area that were interested in maybe talking to the population and recently there was this event that the the local politician organized where we were invited to present our your views. We also got some questions from the locals. And we in Greenpeace have an expert young harbor camp, which is it's the nuclear experts it it happens that he worked in Romania for five years during the 1990s for the nuclear power plants, so he's, he has a lot of knowledge on that. So we, we gather that questions and the expert answered some of the some of the questions. Yeah, the questions were about what we already discussed about waist about what should be the minimum safety distance from the from the neighborhood, let's say, because it's quite close, it's less than 200 meters from the first block of flats in that area. So it's very rare isn't in the Valley. It's in a small valley, it's in the church, which is close to go which there. That's the biggest city close to the power plant to the, to the nuclear power plant. And it's 20 kilometers from the Gulf each day. It's, as I said, a couple of hundreds of meters from the city centre of that the church, and it's 90 kilometers from Bucharest. So it's not that far away from from here. Yeah, and we, and we went there, we discussed with the people and we presented our views. And talking about the war in Ukraine, there is another argument about what's happening there. zapato is apologia. And the safety aspect of it cannot be guaranteed at all times. So it's if it's not work, it could be some terrorist attacks, or some maybe some natural disasters. Also the plant is situated in its it's in a valley there is this small river going through that value, but that's not enough to call to call the reactors. In India, that's another problem that we see. And it's you could use the same argument is for gas, it comes a bit too late in the as a solution to this energy crisis, because it will take many years for the plan to be operational.
Yes. Yeah. Great point. Okay. I mean, I just want to begin wrapping up. And my one I hopefully maybe final question is, what do you think, will be the because you point out some really good points here is, by the time new gas sources come online, it's kind of too late. By the time nuclear power comes online, it's still a ways off and even cost wise, could be too late. So from your perspective, and I would assume Greenpeace perspective and Romania, what is the future of the energy sector in Romania? What will it look like by say, 2050?
Well, we are we are demanding coal phase out by 2030. We got 2032, which is not that bad. We're also demanding 2035 for a gas phase out. And yeah, 2042 to be climate neutral, and yeah, have 100% renewables. So yeah, we are promoting renewable energy. But right now, I would think that the bigger aspect could be energy efficiency, because we there is a lot of wasted energy throughout Romania. Most of it in the building sectors, like our block of flats and houses are not very isolated, isolated, and yet the cheapest energy that it's out there is the one that you don't consume it. We've heard and so we are Yeah, we are demanding authorities to put energy efficiency on the top of their agenda and renewable, expand renewable energy as well.
Excellent. Okay, Eileen, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.
Thank you through
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