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Day 2 of the 5th Annual Trans Caspian Forum Explored Energy, Sustainablity, and Entrepreneurship Partnerships between the United States and Caspian Region
Speakers from the United States and the Caspian countries discussed the Caspian region’s potential of renewable energy, the future of hydrocarbons, and mechanisms to encourage small business development and economic growth in the post-pandmeic world.
Washington, D.C. — TODAY, the Caspian Policy Center (CPC) hosted Day 2 of the 5th Annual Trans-Caspian Forum to explore the energy, sustainablity, and entrepreneurship opportunities between the United States and the Trans-Caspian corridor countries.
This year's forum is co-organized by the Embassies of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, and supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Agency for International Development, with the participation of the U.S. Department of State and U.S. National Security Council.
“The Caspian region plays a vital role in connecting people and goods across continents. The Trans-Caspian acts as a bridge between Europe and Asia and serves as a hub for commerce, infrastructure, and energy,” said Efgan Nifti, Chief Executive Officer of the Caspian Policy Center who opened up the Forum with his welcome remarks.
Kurt Donnelly, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Energy Resources, U.S. Department of State delivered keynote remarks on the “Transcaspian Forum: Trans-Caspian as a Global Hub for Energy Supplies, Security, and Sustainability” panel that focused on utilazing the untapped potential of renewable energy in the Caspian region while also continuing to responsibly utilize its hydrocarbon reserves.
“Working together, we can build reliable supply chains that offer Caspian countries alternatives to those being dependent on one country. Renewable energy can meet domestic demand and strengthen regional connectivity and increase resilience of our energy sectors,” said Mr. Donnelly.
Panelists, Elnur Soltanov, Deputy Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Azerbaijan; Aliya Shalabekova, Vice Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Öztürk Selvitop, Director General at the Ministry of Energy and Natural Sources of the Republic of Turkey; Vitaliy Baylarbayov, Deputy Vice President, State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan for Investments and Marketing; Giorgi Chikovani, CEO, Georgian Energy Development Fund; Robert Scher, Head of International Affairs, BP; Fawad Quraishi, Vice President and Head of Representative Office in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, Equinor; and Eldor Tulyakov, Executive Director of Development Strategy Center, Uzbekistan discussed the role of the commercially successful energy projects such as the Southern Gas Corridor play in the regions economy and geopolitics and future plans to diversify the Caspian’s energy portfolio beyond hydrocarbons.
“We are rediscovering the Caspian as a source of renewable energy. Our initial assessments show that the Caspian demonstrates a huge potential for offshore wind generation,” said Mr. Soltanov.
“Achieving the goal of carbon-neutrality requires a transformation of the energy industry and increasing the share of renewable energy generation,” said Ms. Shalabekova.
“You may have gas reserves, you may have strong gas infrastructure, but if you don’t have a well-functioning, transparent, and competitive market, you cannot sustain the system for a long period of time. You have to adapt your market according to the needs of the dynamic energy sector. Foreign investors want to invest in a transparent and predictable system,” said Mr. Selvitop.
“We in Azerbaijan believe in the necessity of regional cooperation between all involved countries. We all can work successfully together in solving our regional problems and problems beyond the region,” said Mr. Baylarbayov.
“Georgia appreciates fundamental principles of European energy market architecture, which builds on the merits of market opening and competition, security of supply, extensive deployments of renewable energy, energy efficiency promotion, and low-carbon energy development,” said Mr. Chikovani.
“We need to ‘perform while we transform’- we know that we have to continue to operate using gas and traditional hydrocarbons, while simultaneously switching to a cleaner approach to providing energy knowing that our planet requires that. And I think this region and our work in Azerbaijan specifically is an excellent indication of that,” said Mr. Scher.
“Equinor views Azerbaijan and the Caspian region as important for our business, where we have established excellent working relationships and a valuable experience of operations. We will also work together with local partners to tackle cost, market, and logistical challenges and we’re also engaged with local partners on low-carbon initiatives with reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from operations, offshore wind, and low-carbon hydrogen being the topics of greatest interest,” said Mr. Quraishi.
“Since 2017, Uzbekistan has been interested in improving regional cooperation, and has engaged in initiating multi-format dialogues and settling barriers of cooperation with neighbors, which creates a stimulating environment for enhancing regional energy cooperation in Uzbekistan. Reopening of the Central Asia United Power System (CAPS) promises to promote regional cooperation. Currently, CAPS links Southern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic. Uzbekistan has endorsed transit of Turkmen electricity to the Kyrgyz Republic and Southern Kazakhstan, with a possibility also open for winter delivery to Tajikistan. I believe these efforts will also start involving Afghanistan into regional cooperation,” said Mr. Tulyakov.
Harry Bader, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation, U.S. Agency for International Development, delivered keynote remarks on the “Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems” panel that focused on mechanisms to encourage small business development and economic participation by historically disadvantaged groups.
“We advocate for access to a global digital ecosystem that fosters capitalism, individual free expression, and democracy. We see a global digital ecosystem that can stimulate investment, protect private capital, and expand the horizons of every citizen in every country,” said Mr. Bader.
The panel, moderated by Ambassador (ret.) Susan Elliott, a Senior Fellow at the Caspian Policy Center and former U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan, facilitated a productive dialogue among the panelists Orkhan Mammadov, Chairman of the Management Board of the Small and Medium Business Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan; Avtandil Kasradze, Head of Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency; Lazzat Ramazanova, Chairman of the National Commission on Women’s Affairs and Family and Demographic Policy under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Malika Jurakulova, Gender Adviser at the USAID Tajikistan Mission; Umid Abidkhadjaev, Director of Institute for Forecasting and Macroeconomic Research under the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction of the Republic of Uzbekistan on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship as a vital way of rebuilding the region’s economy in the post-COVID world.
“With a view of creating an enabling SME environment, our agency has introduced various support mechanisms. We analyze the current environment to make sure that our support is tailored to the needs of local SMEs, including particular groups in rural areas, such as youth and women,” said Mr. Mammadov.
“We’re supporting innovative ideas that have a global potential, so we need to have a network outside of the country. That’s why cooperation with the U.S. private sector – venture funds and accelerators – is vital for Georgia’s development,” said Mr. Kasradze.
“Women need online trading platforms as existing online market systems are not available to women in rural areas,” said Ms. Ramazanova.
“COVID-19 pandemic imposed movement restrictions across and outside of Tajikistan. The world practice during COVID has proven the importance of utilization of e-commerce and digital tools such as international delivery services,” said Ms. Jurakulova.
“At present and in the future, the competitiveness of the country in the global economy depends on the level and quality of information technologies,” said Mr. Abidkhadjaev.
To learn more about the 5th Annual Trans Caspian Forum and its agenda for both days, visit transcaspianforum.org.