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Cameron out of Energy

Energy Secretary Daniel Cameron gives a speech in London last month.
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Long-time official Daniel Cameron is stepping down after a problem-filled tenure

Energy Secretary Daniel Cameron stepped down yesterday after 11 years in charge and will be replaced by chemical enigneer Mariana Matranga, official sources said.

Although short on influence — especially in recent years — Cameron’s tenure was notable because he was one of the few members of the administration who had remained since 2003, when he was brought to Buenos Aires from Santa Cruz by then-president Néstor Kirchner.

Although the sources were sure to insist that Cameron formally “resigned from his post,” he was likely pushed out to make way for Matranga, said an official from the Economy Ministry headed by Axel Kicillof.

The move is largely seen as a way for Kicillof to gain a stronger foothold in the Energy Secretariat, which has been for all practical terms run by Planning Minister Julio De Vido for years.

Cameron’s lack of influence in the sector has long been evident and industry executives have known for years that the official who they had to talk to in order to get anything done was De Vido.

Yet with the new appointment De Vido may very well lose some of his power over the sector. There seems to be little doubt that the newly-appointed official answers to Kicillof. She worked alongside the Economy Ministry during the state trusteeship of oil giant YPF, following the 2012 expropriation of a majority stake in the company.

Yet the 38-year-old engineer also has a good relationship with YPF, having served as an adviser to the company’s financial division, which is headed by chief financial officer Daniel González, since August, 2012.

González is an ally of YPF CEO Miguel Galuccio, who brought him into the company in July 2012.

Picking someone with good relations at both the Economy Ministry and YPF could be a way to reach a middle-ground between Kicillof and Galuccio, who have been at odds in the past but have been pursuing similar goals recently. Kicillof’s efforts to seal a compensation deal with Repsol and a repayment agreement with the Paris Club is precisely the kind of action that Galuccio had long been demanding as a way to return to the capital markets and motivate companies to invest in the country’s promising shale resources.

It hardly seems a coincidence then that Matranga is specialized in unconventional oil and gas operations considering her appointment would come at a time when the government is in discussions with oil-producing provinces to amend the country’s hydrocarbons law.

Matranga is a researcher at the Engineering College of the Buenos Aires University (UBA) and has worked in the private sector for oil companies, including in Norway and Canada.

Long-time serving official

Cameron had arrived to the secretariat under the wings of Kirchner, after serving as a Santa Cruz province official in the local energy company and in the province’s Econony Ministry.

An industrial engineer, Cameron had specialized in energy distribution systems.

Yet his tenure has been marked by several failures. It was during his time at the helm of the country’s energy policy that the country stopped being energy self-sufficient. A country that was once one of the most reliable regional suppliers of natural gas began importing piped gas from Bolivia and built two terminals to import LNG.

Last year, the country spent more than US$10 billion on energy imports.

Cameron’s tenure was also marked by power outages, which were particularly hard-hitting this past summer, when as many as 100,000 users were left without electricity in Buenos Aires City and its suburbs.

At the same time though, Cameron also oversaw the secretariat at a time when demand soared following the 2001 economic collapse. Since 2003, the government has incorporated 9,000MW to the national grid as demand increased 100 percent, according to Planning Ministry statistics.

The new secretary will face numerous challenges in both the electricity and hydrocarbons sectors, including ensuring that the summer outages are not repeated and helping to attract foreign investment to the country’s oil and gas fields.

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