By Amina Nazarli
The 4th International “Caspian Energy Forum Baku 2017” kicked off in Baku on April 12 with the support of the government of Azerbaijan and the Caspian European Club (Caspian Business Club).
The event was attended by heads of government institutions, ministries, committees and agencies of Azerbaijan and across the countries of the Caspian-Black Sea and Baltic regions, representatives of diplomatic missions and missions of international organizations accredited in Azerbaijan, as well as executives of large international companies.
Telman Aliyev, the First Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Caspian European Club, noted that the main goal of the Forum is to support strengthening of business-state contacts. “The previous three forums were also hosted in Baku. Similar forums also be held in 50 countries as well”, he stressed.
In their video-addresses to the participants, Vice-President of the European Commission for Energy Union, Maroš Šef?ovi? and President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic also highlighted the energy projects initiated by Azerbaijan.
Sefcovic, in his video message, said that the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) project is the vital element of the European Energy Union.
"The Energy Union is not only about our relations with the EU member states, but also with our partners, Azerbaijan being an important one," he added.
The EU is confident to receive gas from Azerbaijan in 2020, said Sefcovic, adding that Azerbaijani gas is very important in terms of energy diversification of Europe.
He pointed out that all contracts have been signed on the SGC project and concrete construction work is going on all of the projects included in SGC.
This progress is not only the result of efforts and commitments of all parties involved, but also the favorable atmosphere created for this project's implementation, he added.
The Southern Gas Corridor is one of the priority energy projects for the EU. It envisages the transportation of gas from the Caspian region to the European countries through Georgia and Turkey.
At the initial stage, the gas to be produced as part of the Stage 2 of development of Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field is considered as the main source for the Southern Gas Corridor projects. Other sources can also connect to this project at a later stage.
In turn, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic stressed that European countries need to diversify energy supplies with the help of Azerbaijani gas.
Despite certain achievements, the EU remains vulnerable in this matter, especially when it comes to the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the Baltic region, Grabar-Kitarovic said.
She noted that expanding cooperation in the energy sector will allow Europe to feel more secure and competitive.
“In order to achieve these goals, Europe has become more cooperative with the countries of the Caspian region,” she said. “The Southern Gas Corridor project is very important for the EU, its energy security and diversification of energy supplies, and that’s why Azerbaijan is an important partner for Europe.”
The Croatian president added that her country intends to continue cooperation with Azerbaijan in the energy sphere, stressing that this is of great importance not only for Croatia, but also for the country’s neighbors.
After the video-addresses, the Forum was continued in sessions.
The first part of the Caspian Energy Forum focused on all aspects of integration of the Caspian-Black Sea and Baltic region countries into the world energy markets. Azerbaijan’s key role in energy, transport and infrastructure projects, the growing sector of gas upstream, the Southern Corridor projects and the resource potential of the Caspian. The second part of the forum was dedicated to the development of the non-oil sector.
Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Malena Mard, speaking on the sidelines of the Forum noted that such events create a good platform for exchange of views in the energy sphere.
"During the last meeting of the EU-Azerbaijan subcommittee on energy, transport and environment, we had a very good opportunity to hold discussions with our colleagues from Azerbaijan, since we are looking at expanding cooperation in energy efficiency," she added.
Regarding the latest developments surrounding the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, Mard pointed out that as Maros Sefcovic said the EU is very supportive of development of all projects included in the Southern Gas Corridor project.
So, the EU has a clear position on this issue, added Mard.
The use of alternative and renewable energy sources will significantly increase the export potential of Azerbaijan, said Jamil Melikov, Deputy Head of the State Agency for Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources.
“Azerbaijan plans to increase the share of alternative and renewable energy sources in total energy balance up to 20 percent by 2020. First, it will positively affect the environment. Today in many countries of the world alternative energy is widely used in agriculture. Implementation of this energy will also increase the efficiency of the use of energy resources,” Melikov said at the event.
He noted that increasing of alternative energy share will help increase the export potential of Azerbaijan.
"Today the country produces on an average about 20 billion kW/h of electricity per year. The country consumes about six billion cubic meters of gas for production of this amount, that is, about 0.3 cubic meters per kW/h, which hits the export. Alternative sources will reduce the share of gas spent on electricity production and increase the export potential not only for gas, but also for electricity," Melikov said.
The total capacity of alternative and renewable energy sources in Azerbaijan exceeds 12,000 megawatts. Some 4,500 MW fall on wind energy, biomass - 1,500 MW, geothermal energy - 800 MW, while the remaining 350 MW is a potential for small hydro power plants.
Azerbaijan has a huge potential in the sphere of renewables, said Aida Sitdikova, EBRD director for energy in Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia.
Emphasizing the ongoing activities in the sphere of renewables in Georgia and Turkey, Sitdikova noted that EBRD hopes to see similar dynamics in Azerbaijan. "We would like to come to Azerbaijan and work here," she added.
The forum also covered discussion on ICT, which is considered to be one of the crucial spheres for the further development of the economy and an integral part of the economic and political reforms, which are currently implemented in Azerbaijan.
The Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan will create a working group to expand the use of ICT in business, Deputy Minister Elmir Velizadeh said.
Velizade noted that the agency is actively working to increase the country's export potential in the field of information and communication technologies.
"The development of this industry is a priority in Azerbaijan, where modern technologies are widely used in all spheres. Azerbaijan is among the world's leading countries in terms of penetration of mobile communications." About 78 percent of the population is covered by access to the Internet, most of which are users of broadband services," the deputy minister said.
Azerbaijan is interested in cooperation with the Caspian states in the field of ICT, according to Velizade , while the project of building the Trans-Eurasian cable main (TASIM) acts as a platform for such cooperation.
Within the framework of expanding international cooperation, the deputy minister noted that Azerbaijan will soon be represented at international specialized exhibitions and conferences in Belarus TIBO-2017 to be held on April 18-21 and in Moscow "Communication" -2017 scheduled for April 25-28, where the country will participate for the first time as a partner.
Talking about export opportunities of the country, Deputy Minister of Economy Sahil Babayev informed the participants that the export of Azerbaijani non-oil products increased by 32.5 percent in January-March 2017 compared to January-March 2016.
Babayev added that the export of industrial goods from Azerbaijan increased by 25 percent during the reporting period.
The deputy minister said that within the framework of the investment promotion mechanism in the country some 121 projects worth more than 1.2 billion manats ($721.1 million) were provided.
Speaking about ‘Made in Azerbaijan’ brand, demand on which is increasing recently, Ramiz Hasanov, Head of the State Committee for Standardization, Metrology and Patent, said that today, 92 trade brands of Azerbaijan are protected by copyright under the brand ‘Made in Azerbaijan’.
Currently, there are 940 standards in Azerbaijan and 45 percent of them are brought in line with international standards, said the head of the Committee.
In late 2016, with a view to bring the economy to a new level Azerbaijan started promoting the ‘Made in Azerbaijan’ brand in foreign markets and developed a number of promotional mechanisms, including participation in international exhibitions.
A total of 3 million manats ($1.71 million) was allocated out of the Azerbaijani President’s Reserve Fund in the 2016 State Budget to finance the export support measures.