All the gas Moldova receives from Russia, 5.7mn cubic metres per day, will be directed to the separatist Transnistria region, while customers in the rest of Moldova will be supplied with gas purchased from state-owned energy trader Energocom, Moldovan gas company Moldovagaz announced on December 3.
The strategy was adopted in response to the high blackout risk generated by Moldova’s massive reliance on Romanian electricity, which has twice been suspended during missile attacks in Ukraine.
Under normal circumstances, gas-fired power plants in Transnistria supply most of Moldova proper’s electricity. After Gazprom cut supplies to Moldova in October, Chisinau reduced the amount of gas it was sending to Transnistria, where MoldGRES in turn cut production at its power plants. This forced Moldova to make more expensive electricity imports from Romania, and another consequence was that relations between Chisinau and the Russia-backed separatists in Tiraspol deteriorated.
At the same time, Energocom announced that it signed a contract for 200MW of electricity with the MoldGRES power plant in Transnistria for the month of December, which will cover nearly half of its needs.
Previously, MoldGRES had stopped selling electricity to Moldova proper at the beginning of November when Gazprom confirmed it would deliver only half of the contracted amounts to Moldova. It later maintained the regime of low deliveries in December.
Some risks will remain for the northern parts of Moldova, where the grid operates together with part of that in Ukraine, until Romania finds a way to export electricity directly.
The low price charged by MoldGRES, $73 per MWh, compared to $230 paid on average for the electricity purchased from Romania's day-ahead market in November, will allow the authorities to cut the end-user prices, Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu announced. At the same time, Romanian companies will keep supplying nearly half of Moldova’s electricity under bilateral contracts at $90 per MWh.
An interesting consequence of the new arrangement is that Moldovagaz will not pay any bill to Gazprom for the month of December, as Tiraspoltransgaz is responsible for the payments to Gazprom in Transnistria — meaning it gets the gas for free as Russia-backed Transnistria does not pay its gas bills.
No comment from Gazprom on this is available so far, but Moldovagaz head Vadim Ceban confirmed that customers in the parts of Moldova under Chisinau’s control will not be liable for the gas received in December from Gazprom and transferred to Transnistria.
The strategy pursued by Moldovagaz — which is controlled by Gazprom but coordinates its actions with the authorities in Chisinau — and Energocom has been endorsed by the government in Chisinau, but is seen by some analysts as a risky decision.
However, talks are now underway on extending the electricity supply deal with MoldGRES until the end of March, Energocom said.
Energocom visibly believes that it can handle the situation better with the electricity partly purchased from MoldGRES.
Energocom has accumulated a buffer of some 250mn cubic metres of natural gas, which it estimates to be enough for a couple of months of consumption in Moldova proper if the power plants are fired with fuel oil.
At the same time, Romanian natural gas company Transgaz announced that Romania made its first natural gas exports to Moldova — except for some transfers earlier this year, when Romania actually lent some amounts to Energocom.