Czechia, Azerbaijan poised for promising trade, economic cooperation - Petr Binhack (Exclusive interview) (PHOTO)

Economy Materials 21 June 2024 08:00 (UTC +04:00)
Czechia, Azerbaijan poised for promising trade, economic cooperation - Petr Binhack (Exclusive interview) (PHOTO)
Lada Yevgrashina
Lada Yevgrashina
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 21. There is significant potential for trade and economic cooperation between the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan, Director for Energy Strategy and International Cooperation of the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade Petr Binhack told Trend in an exclusive interview.

"The priority sectors for the Czech Republic in Azerbaijan include energy, engineering, transportation infrastructure development, healthcare, agriculture, and the food industry," he said.

This cooperation in the energy sector encompasses both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. "Azerbaijan already holds a share in oil and gas imports to the EU, and we hope this share will increase. The general aim of the EU, and specifically the Czech Republic, is to phase out supplies of Russian oil and gas. We see the potential for an increase in the supply of Azerbaijani oil and gas to the CEE region".

At the moment, the Czech Republic is among the top five buyers of Azerbaijani oil.

"We have proved we are serious in this and now construction is underway for the extension of the capacity of the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL) which connects to the Ingolstadt–Kralupy–Litvínov (IKL) pipeline. This pipeline already brings almost two million tons of Azerbaijani oil to the Kralupy nad Vltavou refinery. It accounts for approximately 25 percent of oil consumption in the Czech Republic. With the increased capacity of the TAL pipeline, we hope to eliminate the remaining 50 percent of our supplies, which currently come from the Russian Federation," Petr Binhack elaborated.

Discussing gas, a representative from the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade emphasized that Czechia firmly supports EU efforts to strengthen internal gas infrastructure, whether through routes via the Western Balkans or LNG terminals in Northwestern Europe.

"We are certainly supportive of diversification projects and recognize the importance of alternative routes. We do not believe that investing in new infrastructure or enhancing existing infrastructure creates the risk of a lock-in effect. Our ultimate goal is to replace Russian supplies, so it's not a matter of increasing gas consumption that would compromise our climate goals by 2030 or 2050. Currently, even if consumption remains stable or slightly decreases, we still see room for new supplies as we phase out Russian supplies," he noted.

He added that gas consumption in the Czech Republic in 2023 decreased to 7 billion cubic meters, down from the previous level of 9.5 billion cubic meters per year. "This reduction is due to the COVID crisis, the energy crisis, additional demand reduction measures, and energy efficiency improvements. We are actively seeking to diversify our energy supply".

Petr Binhack pointed out that up until 2022, the Czech Republic was almost entirely reliant on Russian gas imports. However, in recent years, it has diversified its sources by increasing LNG imports from several Western European countries, the US, and other nations. "It is in our interests to attract as many alternative suppliers as possible, and Azerbaijan certainly plays a significant role in this strategy. A lot will depend on the infrastructure".

He stated that the Czech government supports Czech companies investing in Azerbaijan, recognizing their participation in projects as holding substantial potential for mutual benefit.

"Czech companies, whether in development, engineering, or technology production, are very interested in ambitious renewable energy development plans of Azerbaijan. These plans, as a result of energy sector developments, are very promising," Binhack said.

He reminded that there is a Czech company working on hydropower plants. "We believe this cooperation holds a great potential. Additionally, cooperation on developing solar power plants is of interest, with several Czech companies particularly keen. For the Czech Republic, it's crucial to develop renewables domestically and to share our lessons learned regarding the integration of renewables. This aspect represents a new field for cooperation, involving not only physical projects and technology transfer but also sharing best practices for managing energy transition. This includes integrating renewables, battery storage, and other flexibility options like hydro or power-to-gas into the energy sector".

According to Binhack, the prospects for cooperation with Azerbaijan in the field of technology and innovation are highly promising.

"The Center for Analysis and Coordination of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Azerbaijan has shown significant interest in collaborating with Czech partners, particularly in knowledge transfer and the adoption of advanced technologies. I would argue that the technology sector is one of the most important sectors for the Czech Republic," he added.

He also mentioned recent negotiations between representatives of the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics and relevant Azerbaijani institutions regarding potential projects in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). "This is a very promising sector with potentially high returns".

Technological innovations play a vital role in climate protection. Czechia has committed to climate goals and looks forward to participating in the 29th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP29) in November in Baku.

According to Petr Binhak, Czechia is ready to discuss ambitious, nationally determined contributions (NDCs) aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "Defining our NDCs and embracing the decarbonization process, alongside adapting our economy, will help us achieve our ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2050".

He clarified that Czechia is currently in the process of reassessing and adopting a national energy strategy, a national climate strategy, and national energy and climate plans for 2030.

"Our ongoing plans essentially serve as roadmaps to reach our climate and energy objectives by 2030 and 2050. Our overarching aim is achieving carbon neutrality by 2050," Petr Binhak concluded.