The Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors of ICGB AD, on the perspectives for greener, more sustainable and diverse energy supply for Bulgaria
The energy future in Southeastern Europe has been a hot topic for politicians, entrepreneurs and analysts for years now. What are the best solutions? How to achieve reasonably-priced diversification? In what sources to invest and in which fields to innovate? Teodora Georgieva is one of the best people in Bulgaria to talk about this.
Teodora Georgieva has more than 20 years of experience as a strategic manager of leading significant energy and other economy projects. Since 2015, she has been the Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of ICGB AD, a project company responsible for the design, construction and implementation of IGB, the gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria. The project involves the construction of natural gas transmission infrastructure and the interconnector is one of the EU's top priority energy projects. Its successful implementation will contribute to achieving real diversification and increased security of energy supply for Bulgaria and the region and will provide new opportunities for the country on the energy market. ICGB AD is a joint venture company with shareholders BEH EAD (50%) and IGI Poseidon (50%). The co-shareholder IGI Poseidon is registered in Greece, with shareholders being the Greek public gas corporation DEPA S.A. (50%) and the Italian energy group Edison SpA (50%).
Teodora Georgieva is responsible for the project's overall management and development. Before joining ICGB, she was the Managing Director of Nabucco Gas Pipeline Bulgaria and Managing Director and Cluster Manager for Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia at OMV Bulgaria. She has been Bulgaria's coordinator for the European Round Table of Industrials (ERT) and in 2009 and 2010 was declared Manager of the Year and made the Best 10 Bulgarian Managers list. Teodora Georgieva is a graduate from the University of National and World Economy, has an MA in Finance and is fluent in English, German, and Russian. Married, with two children.
Why is IGB construction important for Bulgaria, Greece and the region? What is its role for energy security and environment?
The project for construction of an interconnector, which will connect the gas transmission networks of Greece and Bulgaria, including the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, is one of the main energy priorities of our country and is part of the EU strategic projects in the sector. The pipeline will allow Bulgaria to receive supplies of natural gas from more than one source, which will inevitably lead to increased security of supply and real diversification of gas sources. Development of new routes for the import of natural gas automatically increases competition, which is of great importance for end users, who will be able to use natural gas at competitive prices.
The interest in IGB transcends national borders as the project is developed in synergy with other large-scale gas pipelines such as TAP, TANAP and EastMed, as well as with planned and existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the area. The interconnector with Greece is the connection of our region with the Southern Gas Corridor, which will be one of the main axes for gas supplies to the EU. The successful implementation of the IGB project will enable our country to receive supplies from some of the largest gas fields in the world: the Caspian and the Mediterranean Sea, and the Middle East. These new opportunities will not only guarantee us increased energy security but will also change Bulgaria's position on the region's energy map. All this brings us only long-term benefits.
IGB is also part of Bulgaria's strategy for a smooth transition to a more sustainable energy sector, focused on fuels that leave a smaller footprint on the environment. The world today is looking in the direction of environmental protection and sustainability and our country is also taking steps towards more gentle solutions in this direction. With time and with the development of technologies, natural gas can be a great transitional step towards cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels. I follow with great interest the development of ongoing research and projects related to the use of hydrogen, which may become the future of energy. The good news is that the natural gas transmission infrastructure we are investing in today can be used for hydrogen in years to come.
You say that IGB construction has become your personal cause. Why?
IGB is a game changer for Bulgaria and the region. The development of the interconnector will bring a significant change in the concept of how we build our energy security and independence in our country but also in the region. It has become my personal cause. This project is designed to supply natural gas from different sources and is the only one currently in our country that leads to diversification of gas sources. This certainly grants the Bulgarian industry, the suppliers, and the Bulgarian consumers a right to choose. Ultimately, the implementation of this project leads to increase of competition, and respectively reduced gas prices. The project will serve as an engine for the actual liberalization of the gas market, as inevitably in the long term it will indirectly increase the opportunities for household and consumers gasification. Regardless of the challenges and difficulties constantly arising along the way, so far my team and I have accomplished serious and visible work and we are determined to successfully complete this project. Its completion has become a real cause for me, and it will be a great satisfaction for all of us.
How do you manage to achieve your goals in the complex geopolitical environment in which the project takes place?
The balance between different interests in this exceptional geopolitical environment is indeed very complex, but to a large extent this challenging task falls to politicians. For me and my team, the most important thing is that in this undertaking we have the full support of all interested parties – the governments of Bulgaria and Greece, the European Commission, our partners from Azerbaijan and the US. This gives us the strength to meet all obstacles along the way, and we have had quite a few of them so far.
The unexpected global pandemic added to the challenges we are facing, but I can say that despite the difficult situation, our teams have not stopped working on the project's completion. We managed to reorganize some of the main activities, keeping the workers' safety and health in mind. Over 150 km from the total 182 km route have been cleared and 80 km have been welded. Teams on site are already laying and backfilling sections that reach about 35 km. We are almost done with the line pipe deliveries from the final milestone. As a manager I am happy to say we achieved serious progress in the last few months despite this extremely challenging situation. It is a collective effort, and I am thankful for the dedication of my team and for the support we continue to receive from all shareholders and partners.
What is your strongest manager trait that still helps you to grow as a personality and a professional?
I believe the consistency of efforts and actions… again for the sake of the project implementation. Also, the ability to integrate ideas and manage conflicts. This project requires strong focus and dedication as well as overcoming one's ego in the name of a bigger idea.
What, in your opinion, defines a strong leader?
The successful leader is the one who can fully engage the team-members to pursue a greater goal. A person who motivates people to be responsible and accountable for what they do but at the same time builds their personalities and gets the most of it. The leader must be able to listen, to be patient, to be consistent, to be persistent when necessary and to think long-term, strategically, despite the challenges.
How do you balance between your personal life as a mother and a spouse and a leading manager?
Achieving such balance is no doubt difficult. It is always nice to know that you are a good example for your children… but it is equally important to spend time with them and give them the most essential – help them to grow as good and valuable people with virtues, integrity, and ethics. Provide support to pursue their own way and to follow their dreams.
Without the support and understanding of my husband, my parents, and my children, I would not have been able to have this career development, satisfaction, and success at work. I genuinely appreciate all this. The satisfaction from the amazing parenting task that my husband and I had and still have is great if we have succeeded even to a small degree. Of course, our children will be the ones to evaluate our efforts.
Currently, the energy sector has been incredibly dynamic. What do you think of its future? What are the main trends?
I believe that for Bulgaria the best is yet to come. With the successful commercial launch of the IGB pipeline we will witness changes in the region's energy map. The LNG terminal near Alexandroupolis, which should be ready in a few years, will also boost our capacity utilization and will contribute to diversification and increased competition. We will be able to import LNG and natural gas from various countries like the US, Egypt, Israel and others. The possibilities ahead are remarkable.
I already touched upon hydrogen as a key current trend and I believe we will hear much more about it in the coming years. It is already becoming a hot topic at high-level energy sector EU meetings and I am excited to see where this will lead. In time, a greener transformation from natural gas to hydrogen may be possible, but it needs to be introduced gradually and economically reasonably. This will be good for the environment on a global scale and I am hopeful that Bulgaria can be a part of that effort. For example, if some of the coal power plants in the country decide to use natural gas to produce energy and invest in gas turbines, this will set a good example and will allow for great synergy with IGB. It will boost the consumption of natural gas, while offering a more environment-friendly solution. From there, the next step to hydrogen is easier and the investment will not be so big.