ASSISTANT SECRETARY PYATT: — an inspiring discussion with Deputy Prime Minister Aleksiev, my first meeting of this visit, and we could have gone all afternoon.
But my big message in that meeting was first and foremost, congratulations: to offer my congratulations and the United States congratulations for the extraordinary progress that Bulgaria has achieved on its energy security agenda in recent months, including just last week with the commencement of operations for the interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, but also for the Alexandroupolis Floating Regassification Unit, the TAP pipeline and Bulgaria’s connection to that. For all the work that Bulgaria has done to build energy connectivity with its neighbors — Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Romania where I was yesterday, Turkey. And most importantly for Bulgaria’s achievement of independence from its dependence on Russian gas, which is so, so important in view of the brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s increasing weaponization of its energy resources.
I was also with the Deputy Prime Minister and here in Bulgaria to express strong support for US businesses that are active in the energy sector. Companies like AES in renewables and fossil fuels, but also all that we hope to do in the nuclear area which is an important part of Bulgaria’s energy mix and an industry which is going through a revival in the United States, and I’ll talk about that in a little bit.
The other reason I’m here is because of our Ambassador. I’m coming off of six years as U.S. Ambassador in Greece. My neighbor and collaborator on so many issues was Ambassador Mustafa over the past three years. We are so, so lucky to have her as our representative here. And all the progress that I talked about would not have happened from a Washington perspective without having an Ambassador and an embassy that has been so energetic and effectively engaged.
Herro came to visit me in Greece four times — in Athens, in Thessaloniki and in Alexandroupoli — and I owe her enormous debt, so Herro thank you for welcoming me back, and again, thank you to the AmCham and the government of Bulgaria for putting this event together and for giving me the platform.
The focus today of course is inward investment to the United States, and I want to focus on one particular aspect of that which is related to my new responsibilities as the Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, because you are about to see a transformation of the U.S. energy sector and it’s very exciting in terms of our climate agenda. It’s very exciting in terms of growth and opportunity in the United States. And I think it’s also very important in terms of our transatlantic energy relationship which has been important for a long time, but has become more important than ever since the 24th of February as we’ve seen the strong alignment between President Biden and President von der Leyen, all the work that the United States and American companies have put in to try to help Europe to navigate through the extraordinary disruptions that Russia has caused through its invasion of Ukraine, through the shock to the global energy system that that has caused, through the disruption to global commodity flows that Russia is responsible for.
The big news of the summer in the United States was not just Ukraine, but it was also the passage of a law called the Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act is the most ambitious legislation the U.S. Congress has ever passed to advance President Biden’s commitment to combatting the climate crisis and advancing energy transformation.
I want to throw a couple of numbers at you. The most important one is $370 billion. The IRA is allocating $37 billion a year over ten years to climate resilience, energy transformation, and all the related sectors. On top of that we have the Infrastructure Bill passed a little bit earlier. That creates a total pool of about one-half trillion dollars in new spending on energy transformation in the United States, not to mention the additional tax incentives that these laws have created.
The net effect of this is going to be to supercharge energy transformation in the United States. You are going to see an unprecedented acceleration in terms of deployment, innovation, and capitalization of the energy sector in the United States. Wind, solar, critical minerals, the enhancement of electricity grids. All of the measures that are going to be part of transforming a U.S. energy system that has been built around fossil fuels into one that is more sustainable, driven by renewable sources.
This is a profound change to the U.S. economy, it’s going to create extraordinary disruptions, it’s going to create new demand for critical minerals, new demand for skills. I was reading the other day we’re going to need twice the number of electricians as we have in the United States right now to support this expansion.
But it is also a fantastic complement to what Europe is doing through its Resilience and Recovery Fund, through the European Green Deal. And I actually think it’s going to create unique opportunities for synergy.
My favorite example of this is an American company that I worked with as US Ambassador in Greece. Advent Technologies is a Boston-based company which specializes in hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen energy storage technologies. The Greek branch of Advent has now received 800 million euros of funding from the Resilience and Recovery Fund for a project called Green HiPo under the umbrella of the larger agenda for energy transformation in Europe, to roll out an industrial scale, utility scale clean hydrogen project not far from us here in Western Macedonia, in Greece.
That’s going to create jobs in Greece. It’s going to create opportunities across the Western Balkans. I’m sure it will create opportunities for companies here in Bulgaria and a natural synergy with what our companies and Bulgarian companies are doing in the energy storage space. But it’s also going to be driven by innovations in the United States.
I’ll always remember visiting the laboratories of Advent Technologies in a city called Patras in southern Greece and there in the laboratory were American scientists who were coming to learn from their Greek counterparts, but also Greek scientists who were getting ready to travel to Silicon Valley and the United States. That illustrates to me the transatlantic nature of this opportunity.
I am very, very focused in my new role on ensuring that the State Department and our embassy teams around the world including the team at the embassy here in Sofia, have the best possible tool kit to help develop and accelerate these commercial opportunities around energy transformation.
I know this is possible because in my own experience in Athens we have a program in the U.S. Department of Commerce which I’m sure you’ll hear more about today called Select USA which is designed to help companies abroad navigate the very large and diverse US market. We have 50 states. We’re a huge country. Everything from human capital to local tax policies to zoning to courts and logistics. Select USA is a mechanism to help you navigate that very complicated environment.
Let me mention two companies in the energy space that use Select USA which again illustrated this synergy example. One is called Hellenic Cables. It’s headquartered near Athens. And Hellenic Cables’ particular product is the very specialized high voltage cables encased in carbon fiber which are used to support offshore wind production.
Hellenic Cables is providing the cabling to support the first large offshore wind project in the United States which is in the state of Virginia. Actually my current utility provider, Dominion Energy. So, there’s a ship which began in Corinth near Athens, and carried a giant spool of cable all the way to the east coast of the United States where that cable is now being rolled out as part of the Dominion wind project.
But what’s really interesting is that facilitated by Select USA, Hellenic Cables is now investing in a new cable manufacturing facility in the state of Maryland to supply other offshore wind projects that will be coming up on the east coast of the United States because this is one of the sectors that’s going to be supercharged by the Inflation Reduction Act and there simply isn’t enough high capacity deep water cabling available in the United States.
I was in Romania yesterday and I was talking to one of the operators who told me that they had approached an Italian company about cabling for offshore wind in Romania and they were informed that first delivery would be in 2027. We don’t have until 2027 to meet the climate crisis, so we’re all going to need to work together.
Another example in this area, another Select USA success story, is actually right next door to us. It’s in Thrace or however you say Thrace in Bulgarian, but Sunlight is a battery manufacturer and they’ve developed a specialization in the batteries which are used in forklifts and other applications for large logistics warehouses. Because of Amazon and other phenomenon in the United States we are seeing an explosion in these specialized logistics warehouses. The robots are becoming more sophisticated, more autonomous and they need special batteries, and that’s what Sunlight produces.
The batteries are very heavy, so it’s not practical to produce those batteries in Greece and carry them all the way to the United States. So Sunlight has a new lithium ion battery factory which they are building up in North Carolina, and Select USA helped them to identify a site, to work with the local authorities, to develop a plan for workforce development and training to provide support for that project.
So, these are fantastic examples of how, first of all, how the U.S. economy is driving innovation in these areas, but also attracting investments and know-how from here in Europe.
We have a very large market in the United States, the largest consumer market in the world with a GDP of $20 trillion. We have 325 million people. Another thing we have that will be important in the years ahead is an extremely competitive energy market. We have a rapidly growing renewable sector. The statistic I love to share with people because in Europe it’s always a surprise to hear that the largest state for wind power in the United States right now is Texas. Everybody thinks of Texas and they think of the Dallas TV show and they think of oil and gas. But Texas has also become a major center for renewables.
Meanwhile, we are also the home of the shale gas revolution. The United States has become the largest LNG exporter in the world, but the abundance of shale gas and the innovation of the American industry means that we also have ready availability of gas inputs in the United States which contributes to the competitiveness of our industry and the effectiveness of our utility grids. That is going to be a big part of the story as President Biden focuses on the revival of the American manufacturing economy. Both the revival of that economy but also the upscaling and modernization of that economy.
So more digital industry, more clean energy, more innovation, and again what makes me so excited about the Inflation Reduction Act is it’s such a big chunk of money that it’s going to lead to creation that we really can’t even anticipate right now. There will be a lot of disruption in the next couple of years.
The IRA of course will also be a huge contribution to the United States’ commitment to it doing as much as we can to meet our climate commitments. And in that regard I was really encouraged to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister over lunch today, and I’ll be running off in a few minutes to see the Prime Minister and some other members of his government, really encouraged to hear how strongly Bulgaria is also focused on this agenda of transformation. But always informed by the idea that ultimately government has to deliver for citizens. It has to deliver for businesses. It has to create an enabling environment.
I think the United States is doing pretty well in that regard. I’m incredibly excited about the future of the strategic relationship between the United States and Bulgaria but also very excited about the contribution that our strategic energy partnership is going to make to that effort. I look forward to hearing from our Ambassador and her fantastic team in Bulgaria about all the opportunities that are going to open up in the weeks and months ahead and how we jointly can leverage the challenge of the climate crisis and the energy crisis that Vladimir Putin has caused but also the opportunities that its creating to build a better future for all of our citizens.
Thank you very much and again, thank you for the warm welcome here in Sofia.