Remarks by Country Representative Mikaela Meredith at the Signing of Agreement between USAID and OSHEE

Good morning and thank you to OSHEE CEO, Mr. Adrian Cela. I am honored to be here for this MoU signing and to mark the newest stage of partnership between our two governments.

Not long ago, Albania faced a real energy crisis. Power outages, high import prices, and energy losses estimated as high as 45 percent were crippling challenges for Albania’s economy, and ultimately led the Government of Albania to take over the distribution system altogether.

This decisive action proved effective, as, I am sure that you all would agree the Albanian energy sector has made tremendous progress since the challenges of 2013.

Within the U.S. Government, we are very proud to have helped the Government of Albania make such strides in a relatively short time. Over the years, USAID support has helped the Government of Albania take the comprehensive action necessary to get its energy sector back on track. This includes establishing the new legal and regulatory framework; assisting with strategic planning for the sector; and addressing the critical financial and operational difficulties of the distribution utility, OSHEE.

Today we see that the Government of Albania’s commitment to addressing these challenges is paying off. Energy losses are significantly reduced and the regulatory and legal framework has improved markedly, making the Albanian energy sector more compatible with the EU acquis communautaire. These developments have also prepared the Albanian energy sector for greater competition and integration with regional markets to enhance the overall security of supply – which is essential for long-term economic growth and social stability.

These impressive gains deserve recognition, but we must also keep our focus on the work that remains to be done to ensure Albania’s continued economic development.

To secure these gains and build upon them, it is crucial that Albania continue to improve the performance of its energy sector.

The U.S. Government remains committed to helping Albania address its constraints to economic growth, including challenges in the power sector. These efforts underpin our shared goal of making Albania’s economy more resilient and competitive, and moving Albania toward greater self-reliance.

Efforts by the utility and the government to reduce illegal connections require sustained commitment and continued leadership. We will continue to support you in tackling this challenge and others through this Memorandum of Understanding.

Over the next 12-15 months, USAID will provide technical assistance to OSHEE in areas such as meter reading and billing, revenue protection and control, planning and operation, and improved management structure and processes. These are quick wins for the Government of Albania, achievable with strategic management initiatives, and will set OSHEE on the path for long term commercial viability. They will improve OSHEE’s credit worthiness and prepare it for future infrastructure investment and expansion.

Given the progress we have achieved to date, I have no doubt that our continued partnership in developing your energy sector will lead to a more prosperous future for all Albanians.

We look forward to working with OSHEE on this effort.

Thank you.