Western Balkans Energy Transition: Evaluating the present for a brighter future

On May 6th Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe organized an online briefing session on Energy Transition in the Western Balkans. Six months after adopting the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans and ahead of the EU's Fit for 55 package, we looked into what was done and what are the next steps.

FES SOE had the pleasure to partner with Energy Community Secretariat, Agora Energiewende, and the Regional Cooperation Council. The event was opened by Dr. Ralf Melzer, FES SOE Director. The first speaker in the line-up of experts was Janez Kopač, Director of Energy Community Secretariat. Mr. Kopač shared the Energy Community's most recent product, Energy Tracker.  Developed to track how political pledges match the actual policies needed for the energy transition. He has also shared some of latest on the status of the transition in the region highlighting that the main problem for almost all countries, excluding Albania, is its heavy reliance on coal. While it has once been a blessing for industrial development, it is today a curse with all its adverse effects. Due to this fact, the Western Balkans 6 countries have 2,5 times higher emissions than the EU average. While decarbonization is the expected and logical route to take, the Western Balkans countries have stark inconsistencies and illogical practices still in place. For example, the government subsidies for renewables are far less than the subsidies for coal-powered thermal plants.

Mr. Kopač's address was followed by some preliminary results from FES SOE and DOOR study on Inclusive Energy Transition (IET) as an Opportunity in the Western Balkans. The study highlights focused on defining inclusive energy transition and the perceived obstacles to this process. Opportunities of IET are numerous, but interestingly enough, results of the public survey show the reduction of GHG emissions ranks the highest on the list, taking precedence over reduction of energy poverty, energy cooperatives and other type of social innovation. This could indicate that people are concerned with some of the most evident problems, such as air pollution. Initial results of the study were supplemented with commentaries from Denis Žiško (Center for Ecology and Energy).

Not to talk only about the challenges, Sonja Risteska from Agora Energiewende presented findings on possible coal phase-outs in the Western Balkans. While participants had less optimism, the scenarios she gave would make the phase-out possible by 2040. Since funding is always an issue, it is important to note that findings showed increasing investments in Green Deal scenarios could cumulate up to 40 billion € over 30 years compared to Fossil Scenario which cumulate to 20 billion € for the same period. Finally, our participants had the opportunity to hear from Radovan Nikčević and the Regional Cooperation Council and the future steps on the implementation of the GAWB to be done at the level of their organization and the European Commission. Mr. Nikčević emphasized the vital role of civil society in their efforts, highlighting the dedication and responsiveness that this sector provides, which is essential to advancing this process.

The following online session will take place on May 12th, and FES SOE is partnering with the CROSSBOW project (Horizon 2020) to showcase the energy technology and innovation products developed to optimize the use of renewable energy sources and cross border management. We will also look into the associated risk of digitalization and if the region has relevant cybersecurity legislative frameworks. Because examples and role models matter, we will turn to the Republic of North Macedonia-a champion country in reforming its energy legislation, whether it is being among the first to submit the NECP draft or to push for the adoption of historic Law on Climate Action. The link to register for this event is available here.

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