Ambassador Byrnes’ Remarks at the Southeast Europe Energy Forum

On September 9, 2022, Ambassador Kate Byrnes joined other U.S. Ambassadors from the region at the #SEEF2022 to present the U.S. perspectives on SE Europe's role in energy security.

Regional Ambassadors Panel: “The U.S. Perspective for Southeast Europe’s Energy Role”
(as prepared)

September 9, 2022
Thessaloniki, Greece

Thank you, I’m happy to be here today alongside my fellow ambassadors from across the region.  This regional focus is entirely the point because, while energy is essential to national security, it is not an exclusive national resource.  Taken alone, North Macedonia is a small player in energy.  But Russia’s war in Ukraine has proven beyond a doubt just how reliant we are on one another to fulfill this basic human need.  The United States stands for a Europe whole, free, and at peace, which necessitates that our allies and partners have energy that is secure, integrated, and sustainable.

First, energy supplies must be secure.  Eliminating dependence on Russian natural gas is an imperative.  North Macedonia currently relies on natural gas from Gazprom to support its industry and to power the central heating system in Skopje.  The gas interconnector with Greece to be built in the coming years will break this monopoly, and the United States firmly supports this project as a top strategic priority.  But the country needs to secure supplies now, for this winter.  One option is to expand capacity in the pipeline with Bulgaria, allowing North Macedonia to obtain gas from alternative suppliers.  Such a solution bolsters regional cooperation and energy diversification among NATO Allies.

Second, energy systems must be integrated.  Integration goes well beyond having multiple suppliers and involves understanding and shaping how energy moves across the region:  the quality and utilization of pipelines, the transmission lines, the roads, rails, and ports.  A good deal of attention has been focused on major new projects, like the Floating Storage Regasification Unit in Alexandroupoli, and rightly so.  But we cannot neglect the less visible parts of our networks—the grid connections, the metering stations, and the entire transmission system.  Strong regional cooperation will enable effective grid balancing and improve resilience.  Without this cooperation, a surplus or a deficit in one country can inadvertently destabilize a partner.

Market integration would be even one step further, allowing seamless, secure flows of electricity while harnessing economies of scale.  Each country in the region has a competitive energy advantage somewhere, be it hydro resources in Albania, photovoltaic potential in North Macedonia, or offshore wind in Greece.  A strongly integrated grid will allow energy to flow as needed, unimpeded, between partners who each bring something to the table.

Which brings me to my third and final point:  our energy must be sustainable.  This means investing in renewables, reducing emissions, and again, building up the integrated systems necessary for load balancing.  Pollution does not stop at national borders.  Climate change doesn’t affect just one of us.  If we strive to reach our green energy goals in isolation, not only are we more likely to fail, but our impact on the environment will be limited.  We simply have to work together for the energy transition to bear fruit.

The difficulties North Macedonia faces in energy are not unique.  These are regional challenges, and they require regional solutions.  There can be no holes on the map.  The United States is committed to advancing energy security, integration, and sustainability in North Macedonia and across the region.  We remain your partners in meeting this moment and ensuring our societies have the energy they need to prosper for generations to come.  Thank you.


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