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The Energy Transition May Reshape Western Balkans

April 2022 Business

Barbara Matijašič


In November 2021, the COP26 conference brought together different parties to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Conclusions?

Some significant accomplishments, including new pledges on methane gas pollution, deforestation, coal financing, as well as noteworthy U.S. – China cooperation.

Western Balkans are no exception to international guidelines and obligations on climate change, all the more so because the region has been hit hard by the climate crisis. For example, ensuring diversity  of water resources is a major concern  shared by all countries – because of shared exposure to flood risks of water scarcity in agriculture and energy.

Not Much Time Left for Words

To mitigate the catastrophic impacts of climate change, leaders must transcend their narrow political agendas, and come to accept energy transition not as a threat, but an opportunity – and commit to strong strategic action plans. In a report of 2019, The Western Balkans Investment Framework notes how the Balkans energy sector is characterized by insufficient and aging infrastructure, high reliance on fossil fuels, late adoption of renewables beyond hydropower and residential biomass, low energy efficiency and productivity, high rates of energy poverty despite typically high levels of direct and hidden energy subsidies (mostly targeted towards fossil fuels), limited market mechanisms, and private sector participation. As a result, the region is witnessing one-of-a-kind dual transition from centralised state-controlled systems to open and competitive markets as well as a move toward decarbonization. In this article, we showcase different good practices, projects and ambitions in adapting tougher climate goals for 2030, aiming for net-zero emissions by the mid-century.

Montenegro Example Project - The National Adaptation Plan (NAP)

The project is meant to create systems and capacities at all levels for planning and budgeting mid-to-long-term adaptation. More specifically, Montenegro is strengthening its institutional coordination framework, expanding technical capacities in adaptation planning, enhancing the evidence-base for effective decision making, and defining a resource mobilization strategy.The main beneficiaries of the project are the ministries and institutions responsible for sustainable development and tourism, agriculture and rural development, health, economy and finance, and environmental is- sues such as hydrometeorology and seismology. The project is financed by the Green Climate Fund and connects the private sector with the national government as well as other stake-holders and partners. The budget is estimated at €240,000 and scheduled to end in January 2024.

North Macedonia Example Project - Solar Power Plants in Pehčevo and Karbinci

North Macedonia is the only country in the region to commit to phasing out coal during COP26 negotiations. In December 2021, the country announced two strategic investments in solar power plants, in Pehčevo and Karbinci in the Eastern of the country. The latter is a 85-megawatt facility planned by Renewable Power International, estimated at €63 million.

Serbia Example Project - Green Rural Deal and Energy Transition in Priboj

Planning needs accurate data to be sustainable. This initiative aims to assist local stakeholders in Western Macedonia (Greece), Kamenica (Kosovo), and Priboj (Serbia) in collecting and analysing the socioeconomic data crucial for the transition to a zero-carbon economy. But the lessons learned in the process could apply to many other rural regions. For example, partners learned to create policy briefings that raise the awareness of rural issues at higher levels of government. The project has been live since October 2020 and will last until December 2022. Part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI), the project has been budgeted at €570,000.

Albania Example Project - Modernising Solid Waste Management Systems

Albania is embracing the concept of circular economy, and is building integrated waste management systems to close gaps with EU environmental and climate change regulations. The project is scheduled to conclude in 2023 with the implementation of climate-friendly, resource-efficient, and economically feasible waste management that will lower health hazards and pollution. Green waste has been diverted from landfills to become a secondary resource, with composting and recycling lowering the country’s greenhouse gas emissions on the way. Mirroring the European Green Deal, the project has not only led to energy resource conservation but also created jobs in resource recovery. At an administration level, it has already improved governance across sectors, and moved the country closer to EU environmental standards.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Example Project - Integrating Climate Change Into Flood Risk Reduction in the Vrbas

The project was realised from 2015 to 2020 with the support by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Fund, and the Federation of BIH Civil Protection. The project bequeathed the country with a significant hydrometeorological network for centralised data collection and processing, consisting of 7 hydrological, 2 meteorological, and 20 precipitation stations. Furthermore, the initiative helped strengthen the technological capabilities of civil defence with radio stations, transmitters, and digital sirens. Finally, by providing accessible flood hazard and risk maps, a flood sensitivity model, a cadastre of landslides and torrent flows, real-time hydrometric measurement data, and Participatory GIS, the Vrbas GeoPortal was constructed and operationalized for flood risk management in local communities.

Kosovo Example Project - Support Schemes For Low and Middle-Income Families for Installing Rooftop Solar Panels

Kosovo is set to unveil its energy strategy for 2022 to 2031 in January 2022, but Minister of Economy Artane Rizvanolli has already said it would set the share of renewables in electricity consumption to between 25% and 30%. Kosovo is thus in line with reforms adopted at the European level as well as with recent COP26 commitments. The government has also promised support schemes for low and middle-income families, helping them instal rooftop solar panels and implement energy efficiency measures.

Croatia Example Project - Post-earthquake Reconstruction

This green transformation plan promises €789 million of investment in energy efficiency and post-earthquake reconstruction. The flagship project will renovate 45,000 meters of private and 274,000 meters of public buildings in the the City of Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje County, Zagreb County, Sisak-Moslavina Countym, and Karlovac County. In addition to increasing seismic resilience (based on the “build-back-better principle”), all buildings will achieve at least 30% energy savings compared to their pre-renovation state, and therefore contribute to a cleaner and safer environment.

Slovenia Example Project - Promoting the Uptake of Public Transport

According to the European Commission, Slovenia is faced with a challenging mix of a carbon-intensive economy, a low share of renewables in energy generation, inefficient energy use, high dependency on road transport, and high exposure to climate change transition risks. The green transition is supported via different investment vehicles. For example, railway infrastructure is undergoing a €292-million upgrade, including extension works on the most congested parts of TEN-T railway netwok, the refurbishment of stations in Ljubljana, Domžale and Grosuplje, as well as the installation of an ETCS system to cut travel time while increasing the capacity, speed and safety of rail transport and infrastructure. A refit of the passenger management system should establish single-ticketing and coordinate timetables of different transport operators. All this should result in higher usage of public transport and better services for citizens.


This article was originally published in The Adriatic: Strategic Foresight 2022
If you want a copy, please contact us at info@adriaticjournal.com.