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Romania eyes energy projects that diversify supply, says deputy minister

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Energy diversification projects, such as a plan to build an electric cable under the Black Sea to carry Azeri power to the European Union, have more chance to materialize in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine, a Romanian deputy energy minister said on Tuesday.

EU state Romania has been floating the idea of an undersea power cable for years in its energy strategies.

But in December, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary signed an agreement on the construction of the cable to carry green Azeri energy from planned Caspian Sea wind farms to Europe.

"The paradigm has changed. The need for electricity on European markets is larger. We talk about diversifying supply all the time," deputy energy minister George-Sergiu Niculescu told an energy seminar.

"On a European level, we all agree things have changed from 2018, 2019 when European economies were very dependent on Russian fossil fuels. The conflict has sped up the transition."

Niculescu said representatives of the four countries will meet again on Feb. 24 to discuss a feasibility study of the 1,100 km (685 mile), 1,000 MW cable, which would run from Azerbaijan to Romania.

Separately, Romanian state-owned gas producer Romgaz and Azerbaijan's state energy firm SOCAR agreed last year to perform a feasibility study for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Black Sea.

Romania, which produces around 90% of its gas needs locally, has committed to phasing out coal by 2032 and replacing it with gas, nuclear and renewable energy.

Niculescu also said Romania has over 1.5 billion euros ($1.60 billion) from the EU's modernisation fund available for support schemes for companies and local administrations to build green energy projects for their own consumption or to sell.

The modernisation fund, a programme under the European Green Deal which supports 10 lower-income member states in upgrading their energy systems, adds to EU recovery and development funds available for Romania's energy system.

($1 = 0.9384 euros)

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Christina Fincher)