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CYPRUS EDITORIAL: Time to carefully choose an Energy Commissioner

12 January, 2019 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

With the energy sector developing at a rapid pace, Cyprus needs to have a dedicated coordinator or ‘Energy Commissioner’, preferably a technocrat with a wide knowledge of all energy matters, who would advise the competent Energy Minister on everything from daily oil and gas prices to work permits for industry workers.


In other words, someone who can tell a watt from a volt and the state’s “go-to” person in the absence of the one-stop-shop that never got off the ground.

Fortunately, the Energy, Commerce and Industry Ministry now has one less responsibility on its plate, after tourism was spun off into a junior ministry, with the entire Cyprus Tourism Organisation “upgraded” to a government department, a decision whose merits will be judged in time.

 

Apart from the civil servants of the Energy Service within the Ministry, the only groups that seem to have a universal understanding of the matter are the Energy Division of the employers’ federation OEB, representing all business groups in the field, and the CYS standards authority.

 

The CYS is responsible for the introduction and implementation of nearly 200 standards related to energy, ranging from manufacturing protocols for electricity cables in interconnectors, standards for rotors in wind parks and photovoltaic panels in solar parks, all the way down to quality standards for drills and pipes deployed in offshore gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean.

 

Everything is related to the energy sector, just as the shipping cluster has evolved after four decades into the umbrella organisation of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, with its tentacles of shipowners and shipmanagers, the deputy ministry, the services sector, education, environmental, etc.

On the other hand, the government’s foreign investment promotion body CIPA has not actively promoted Cyprus as an energy hub, choosing instead the investments-for-passports schemes, simply because its board has over the years been dominated by people who have a vested interest (accountants and lawyers).

It’s time the administration started thinking out of the box and empowering a single office with the responsibility to answer inquiries or redirect questions to the suitable department or even coordinate and monitor issues such as licensing of energy projects, a huge task on its own, considering how the government machine works.

Israel has for years had the supra-office of the Chief Scientist, the ultimate authority in any issue related to developing the technology sector and determining national strategy. And look where Israel is now, a leader in this field. Several decades later, Cyprus, too, has decided to introduce something vaguely similar, but it is still not clear who would be its head and what would be its mandate.

Perhaps, we should emulate the Chief Scientist’s remit and adapt it for energy. But this time, as this would be a position of national interest, it should remain above politics and truly independent of party influence.

In order to achieve this, politicians must first agree (for once) that the appointee will be chosen on merit and to do that, perhaps to hire recruiters or headhunters who would not only search to find the ideal candidate, but also to vet that person to see if she or he also has what it takes to do the job and ensure that only the best image will be projected.

If such a policy is introduced, it’s also high time that all such recruitments, even those of Cabinet members, undergo scrutiny by parliament which would need to confirm an appointment, giving our deputies some credibility from the burden of taking responsibility for their actions.

Wishful thinking?