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16 June, 2024
 
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Assessing George Papanastasiou's 9-month energy impact

What Lt. energy's statements really mean for Cyprus

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

Last March, when the newly elected President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, announced his Cabinet, one portfolio that drew attention was the Ministry of Energy. The appointment of a hydrocarbon industry technocrat received positive comments, raising expectations for Cyprus's energy program. Now, nine months later, it's widely acknowledged that George Papanastasiou has brought dynamism to various issues in his ministry, validating his expertise in energy.

The Minister has successfully propelled forward key energy projects that were previously stagnating. Simultaneously, Papanastasiou has generated attention, not always positively, regarding his management of the portfolio. The recent case involving D.P. and the EAC is seen by some as a prime example of growing skepticism toward the government member's activities. One thing is certain – the Energy Minister's honeymoon phase has long ended.

Within nine months, Papanastasiou has given momentum to projects like the EuroAsia Interconnector electric cable, resolved disputes with Israelis over the "Aphrodite" deposit, and pressured deposit managers to start FA production. He has warmly embraced the advent of FA for the internal market. However, this proactive approach has also opened fronts that caused ripples in his standing within the Presidential Palace.

Frontal with EAC

Public disputes with the Electricity Authority of Cyprus persist, revealing deeper policy issues beyond mere disagreements on practical matters. Behind the departure from the EAC Headquarters, serious policy issues related to energy plans and the capability of the organization's leadership team emerge. The blame for the prolonged supply of FA for electricity generation is shared with EAC leaders, known for their reliance on fuel oil. This stance has triggered intense backroom reactions following Papanastasiou's reports on the future of the Dhekelia power station.

Radical Changes

Despite attempts to resolve conflicts, the issue of FA for electricity generation remains a point of no return, with intense pressure suggesting a need for leadership and managerial reconstruction within the EAC. The prevailing view in government circles is that a top-down reconstruction is essential to break away from the status quo and foster a development mentality.

Chevron Vs Republic

The Minister's second open front emerged when Chevron Cyprus Limited requested a modification to the "Aphrodite" field's development plan, sparking tensions. The Republic of Cyprus, entitled to take the deposit, faces potential legal dimensions in this disagreement. Geopolitical issues in the Eastern Mediterranean, Chevron's presence in Israeli deposits, and the fragility of the political environment are believed to underpin the crisis.

ENI - TOTAL - EXXONMOBIL

Recent announcements indicate broader movement in the energy sector. Projects like ENI's work on the Saturn target in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) suggest positive developments. The government's optimism is fueled by the belief that the Energy Minister's efforts with Italian ENI and ExxonMobil will lead to positive outcomes, potentially through direct assignments based on geological data.

EuroAsia Interconnector

Developments with the EuroAsia Interconnector, connecting Cyprus with the European electricity system, bring clarity to a strategically important project. Papanastasiou's support for The Independent Electricity Transmission operator of Greece (IPTO A.E.) signals a shift from past political choices.

"He's a skilled technocrat, but he talks a lot."

In light of public conflicts and behind-the-scenes reactions, concerns about the Energy Minister's public image have arisen. Sources close to the government describe a climate where Papanastasiou's outspoken nature, illustrated by the "photovoltaics for all" plan, has caused embarrassment. The need for better coordination within the government is emphasized, but overall, Papanastasiou is recognized for his ownership of the issues both inside and outside the government.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  energy  |  minister  |  economy

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