Ambassador Christopher Robinson’s Address to Saeima Energy Forum

Saeima Energy Forum
As prepared for delivery
Riga, 22 May 2023

Thank you Chairman Kulbergs for the invitation to participate in this important discussion on the development of a sustainable energy strategy. Thank you, Minister Čudars and State Secretary Kurevska for providing this comprehensive overview on Latvia’s current energy situation.

I commend the Saeima for its attention to this issue. The politicization and weaponization of energy supply has long been a security issue for Europe and for our Alliance.

Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and aggressive posture toward our Alliance has accelerated the need to address this vulnerability. There is no question that energy has become a fundamental security issue for Latvia and for our entire NATO Alliance.

President Putin bet that stopping gas supplies or dramatically reducing flows, and forcing record-high prices on Latvia and Europe would deter Europe from standing up to his aggression against Ukraine. He was wrong.

President Putin bet that stopping gas supplies or dramatically reducing flows, and forcing record-high prices on Latvia and Europe would deter Europe from standing up to his aggression against Ukraine. He was wrong.

Ukraine stands – and stands strong. Europe stands – and stands strong. Latvia and many other European countries are reducing dependence on Russian energy and accelerating the transition to the green economy.
It is clear: Latvia took seriously the threat from Russia’s weaponization of its energy resources:

  • Saeima banned imports of Russian natural gas.
  • Government and industry worked quickly to find new sources of natural gas.
  • Government provided support to people and businesses to keep the lights on amid higher prices.
  • And Latvia increased its cooperation with the other Baltic countries to move forward as fast as possible to disconnect from Russia’s electrical grid.

These efforts have shown results:

  • Latvia is one of the leading countries in Europe in natural gas reduction, reducing its consumption by more than 30 percent over the past year.
  • Inčukalns storage facility now has more than nine terawatts of natural gas – 21 percent more gas than this time last year. This makes Latvia less vulnerable to Russian attempts to use energy as a weapon.

However, there is much work to be done to ensure Latvia’s long-term energy security. And a modern energy strategy is the necessary and needed first step! It will give guidance to industry and the government how to promote Latvia’s energy independence from Russia, while building new economic opportunities and helping advance our shared goals to address climate change.

For these reasons, the United States agrees on the need to develop a long-term strategy that:

  • Reduces dependence on hydrocarbons.
  • Increases the use of renewables, including wind, solar, and hydrogen.
  • Explores the potential use of small modular reactors.
  • Develops regulations that attracts private investment and fosters competition in the energy markets.
  • Increases regional coordination on energy security.

With your abundant hydropower, biomass, and wind resources, Latvia can develop renewables for domestic consumption as well as to export to other European countries.

I am pleased that the United States and Latvia have developed strong cooperation in the energy sector. For example:

  • The U.S.-EU Task Force on Energy Security is helping our governments and private sector partners share information to boost energy efficiency and diversify supply.
    Latvia is also an active participant of the U.S. Partnership for Transatlantic Energy and Climate Cooperation (P-TECC).
  • In April 2022, the United States and Latvia announced a partnership under the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program.  FIRST is a capacity-building program designed to advance technical collaboration on secure, safe, and responsible use of nuclear energy infrastructure.
  • Finally, on the commercial front, the Embassy is actively working to make connections between Latvian and U.S. energy companies.

The United States stands ready to deepen this cooperation and work with you, our partners, to advance these efforts.

Our Alliance faces many challenges today. I’m encouraged that your discussions today will help address one of the biggest challenges – developing a path for Saeima, government, and private industry to partner together for Latvia’s energy independence.

Paldies. Dievs svētī Latviju.