Romanian MPs to hear oil company representatives on energy price manipulation

A special committee of the Romanian Parliament will call the representatives of the biggest local oil and gas company OMV Petrom to hearings about an alleged energy market manipulation and artificial price increase, according to social democrat MP Iulian Iancu, the president of the industry committee within the Chamber of Deputies.

He made this announcement in response to a Facebook post of former energy minister Razvan Nicolescu, who accused him of helping Russian group Gazprom by forcing all gas producers in Romania sell over 70% of their production on the local gas market operated by OPCOM.

A draft law that aims to change the local energy and gas law is currently under debate in the Chamber of Deputies. The draft bill, which Iancu initiated, may force local gas producers sell over 70% of their production on the local gas market operated by state-owned OPCOM. The bill may also remove the private commodities exchange Bursa Romana de Marfuri (BRM) from the gas market. The European Commissioner for Energy Miguel Arias Canete has sent a letter to Romanian officials earlier this month warning them that the new bill violates the EU Treaty and the principles of the free energy market.

Former energy minister Nicolescu argued in a Facebook post that Iancu’s draft bill will negatively affect local gas producers and will endanger gas exploitation in the Black Sea. According to him, producers need long term contracts with trusted partners in order to start the offshore gas exploitation. By forcing them to sell most of the gas on the local market, the authorities may block the Black Sea gas projects, thus favoring Russian group Gazprom, which would remain the dominant player in the region.

Iancu reacted in a press release posted on the Chamber’s website accusing the former energy minister of trying to pressure him. “I see that he has found that he will be heard by the parliamentary committee that investigates the activity of the energy regulator ANRE and launched this attack against me hoping I would be impressed or scared,” Iancu wrote.

“To reassure him, I announce him that other high representatives and employees of OMV Petrom will also be invited to provide clarifying information about the following: discriminating electricity producers, market manipulation, artificial price increase, and making the national energy system more vulnerable,” the PSD MP added.

The Romanian Parliament has recently set up a special committee to look into the activity of the local energy market regulator ANRE after the authority approved several increases in the price of gas and electricity for local consumers this year. The committee will also analyze the electricity price evolution, which has recorded some significant fluctuations this year. The MPs suspect that some companies may have reduced their electricity output to create a shortage in the market and artificially increase prices.

Razvan Nicolescu worked as a public affairs director at OMV Petrom before former prime minister Victor Ponta named him energy minister in March 2014. He held this position for ten months after which he was elected president of the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) for a two-year mandate. He then joined local consultancy firm Deloitte as Executive Lead Advisor, at the beginning of this year.

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(Photo source: Iulian Iancu on Facebook)

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