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Eastern Europe energy sector vulnerable, commissioner says

Former Soviet republics tend to be more exposed to geopolitical threats to energy security.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Feb. 23, 2016 at 9:03 AM
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KLAIPEDA, Lithuania, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Eastern Europe may be bearing the brunt of a bloc-wide energy policy that's lagging in erasing concerns about security of supply, a commissioner said.

Maros Sefcovic, a European leader on energy issues, told delegates gathered at Klaipeda University in Lithuania the regional energy policy wasn't working as intended.

"Our energy supply is not secure enough and our use of it is often highly inefficient," he said in his address. "In this part of Europe you are even more exposed to the risk of disruptions."

Former Soviet republics like Lithuania are vulnerable to a regional natural gas infrastructure network that's controlled in large part by Russian energy company Gazprom. Rows between Russia and Ukraine, through which most of the Soviet-era gas pipelines run, have threatened supplies to downstream consumers in Europe.

Sefcovic said last year the European community was examining new strategies for bringing liquefied natural gas to the European market. For U.S. allies in Europe, the abundance of natural gas from U.S. shale basins could be used as a tool to break the Russian grip on the European economy.

From Lithuania, he said his mission was to ensure all member states have access to cost-competitive and geopolitically secure energy supplies. Liquefied natural gas is less vulnerable to geopolitical issues than pipeline transit because of freedom of maneuverability.

"LNG volume to Lithuania is expected to triple this year and for the first time in history, the amount of Norwegian gas will surpass that coming from Russia," he said. "This could be a game-changer for the regional gas market."

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