Romania will run out of electricity supplies this winter, because the government passed a decree whereby the entire energy output of the country’s state-owned electricity providers will be transferred to the Republic of Moldova, according to a false narrative launched in the context of the energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In fact, Bucharest authorities never passed such a decree, while both providers have standing contracts with the state that need to be honored.
NEWS: “The population and economy of Romania have been sacrificed for Maia Sandu’s sake. Hidroelectrica and Nuclearelectrica are no longer selling energy on the market, not even for next year. The government ordered the two companies to reserve their entire energy output for the Republic of Moldova. In this context, president Maia Sandu has also urged Romanians to save energy so that Romania may be able to export it to the Republic of Moldova. Someone said that, considering how many billions Romania has given the Republic of Moldova, it didn’t even get a thank you from Chișinău authorities. Moreover, president Maia Sandu came to Romania not to express gratitude for the latter’s support, but to ask for more energy, and to particularly lecture us for not saving enough energy so as to give it to Moldovans. Because this is our obligation. What is certain is that her visit hit its mark. And here we are, the entire energy has suddenly disappeared from the market, and state-owned companies received instructions to stockpile energy for our neighbor”.
NARRATIVE: Romanians will run out of electricity this winter because of Moldova
BACKGROUND: The Republic of Moldova, a country without any energy resources of its own, is completely reliant on imports of fossil fuels and electricity. Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moldova would buy electricity from Ukraine (accounting for some 30% of domestic demand), while the rest was purchased from the Cuciurgan power plant on the left-hand side of the Dniester, in the separatist region of Transnistria. In October, Russian shelling primarily targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, for which reason Ukraine’s energy exports to the European Union and the Republic of Moldova were cut off. As a result, the government in Chișinău had to buy its entire energy demand from the power plant in Transnistria, currently under Russia’s exclusive control. Encouraged by the Kremlin, separatist leaders in Tiraspol have taken full advantage of this situation. Starting November 1, Tiraspol suspended all energy exports to Moldova, blackmailing Chișinău in order to recieve more natural gas. The move comes against the backdrop of Tiraspol’s refusal to pay for its gas consumpation in the last 31 years, having accrued some 8 billion USD in debt. In this context, our country’s reaction was swift, and at present Romanian energy companies cover 90% of Moldova’s energy consumption. At the same time, the Government in Bucharest also adopted an assistance package for the delivery of fuel oil and firewood to Moldova. Romanian officials are also using diplomatic channels to call on the international community to provide assistance to the Republic of Moldova in order to help this country purchase energy on the free market.
PURPOSE: To weaken Romanians’ confidence in the authorities and spread fear that people will freeze in their homes in winter. To turn the two Romanian countries against each other.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The article published by a well-known website spreading fake news (many of which echo Moscow’s own narratives) does not even mention an official source or a document that should prove Romania’s government has ordered the production of Hidroelectrica and Nuclearelectrica to be exclusively reserved for Moldova. At present, Moldova is purchasing electricity from Romania, more specifically from OMV Petrom and Nuclearelectrica. Talks are ongoing with a view to signing a third contract with another Romanian provider, but under no circumstances are we talking about an exclusive contract, as these energy producers have obviously other contracts that need to be honored. Admittedly, there is a paragraph in Decree 138/2022, which compels all energy producers in Romania to sell energy to providers and traders from the Republic of Moldova at capped prices, although it doesn’t mention any specific producers, nor does it force them to reserve their entire production for exports to Moldova, merely stating that electricity will be delivered “within the limits of available volumes”. Furthermore, the article in question also refers to exceptional circumstances created by the war in Ukraine, mentioning the consumption demand of Moldovan end users. To back its claims, the article also references a statement of the general manager of the Association of Energy Providers in Romania (AFEER), Ion Lungu, who says providers have complained energy sources are low, and wholesale markets are currently inoperative. In fact, the statement of AFEER’s general coincides with the statement of AFEER’s president, Laurențiu Urluescu, made on October 14, which is two weeks before the energy crisis in Moldova started. Ion Lungu also stated there are absolutely no government decrees currently compelling electricity producers to reserve production for the Moldovan state, a statement that was left out by the article’s author: “And then producers, state-owned companies, fear they might be compelled by the Government to export electricity to the Republic of Moldova and discover they cannot do that”.
On a different note, we cannot but notice the huge opportunity Moldova has been presented with to completely get rid of its energy depednency on Russia and the Kremlin’s blackmail, with the rest of Europe. Romanian-Moldovan diplomatic efforts are starting to show promising results. Romania’s Prime Minister, Nicolae Ciucă, has already said that Romania can provide as much as 5 million cubic meters of gas per day to the Republic of Moldova, a volume that is more than enough to cover Chișinău’s consumption in winter, although for the time being no official document has been signed in this respect. The United States will provide a financial assistance package to Moldova to help connect key elements of the country’s energy grid to European networks, as well as to attract investments in local production. European Commission president, Ursula von de Leyen, announced that the European Union will help Moldova “cope with its immediate gas and electricity needs”. Additionally, a project funded under the United Nations Development Program is already unfolding in Moldova. Among other things, the project is designed to create and develop effective mechanisms for approaching and preventing risks caused by the recent energy crisis and any other future crises. Moldova’s break with Russia will not be easy, but it has already started, and the first step will mean getting safely through the upcoming winter.