The Iasi-Ungheni pipeline: a means of achieving energy independence from Russia? Moldova’s attempts at gas supply diversification

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Series Details No.118 (08.10.13)
Publication Date October 2013
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Since taking power in 2009, the Alliance for European Integration (AIE) has been trying to end Moldova’s dependence on Russian gas. Currently, natural gas accounts for about 50% of the country’s energy balance (excluding Transnistria), and Gazprom has a monopoly on the supply of gas to the republic.

The key element of Chișinău’s diversification project is the construction of the Iasi-Ungheni pipeline, which is designed to link the Moldovan and Romanian gas transmission networks, and consequently make it possible for Moldova to purchase gas from countries other than Russia. Despite significant delays, construction work on the interconnector began in August 2013.

The Moldovan government sees ensuring energy independence from Russia as its top priority. The significance and urgency of the project reflect Chișinău’s frustration at Moscow’s continued attempts to use its monopoly of Moldova’s energy sector to exert political pressure on the republic. Nonetheless, despite numerous declarations by Moldovan and Romanian politicians, the Iasi- -Ungheni pipeline will not end Moldova’s dependence on Russian gas before the end of the current decade.

This timeframe is unrealistic for two reasons: first, because an additional gas pipeline from Ungheni to Chisinau and a compression station must be constructed, which will take at least five years and will require significant investment; and second, because of the unrelenting opposition to the project coming from Gazprom, which currently controls Moldova’s pipelines and will likely try to torpedo any energy diversification attempts. Independence from Russian gas will only be possible after the the Gazprom-controlled Moldova-GAZ, the operator of the Moldovan transmission network and the country’s importer of natural gas, is divided. The division of the company has in fact been envisaged in the EU’s Third Energy Package, which is meant to be implemented by Moldova in 2020.

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