Is renewable energy cooperation option for the EU and the Western Balkans?

Jan 2, 2015

photo: undp

The report about ‘Renewable energy cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans’ was presented in the UN House in Brussels in cooperation with Permanent Representation of Croatia to the EU 

By only reducing administrative barriers, Western Balkans countries can excess their renewable energy targets by 50 percent. In contrary, if the same business as usual scenario is applied, none of the countries will reach the renewable energy targets by 2020. These are the modeling results prepared by the BETTER project, funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) with UNDP Croatia as one of the partners in the consortium.

Coming to the issue of administrative barriers and non- transparency in the energy sector in the Western Balkans, addressed by environmental NGOs, Gabriela Cretu from the Energy Community stated that her organization will push for more transparency in decision-making in the energy sector.

If the barriers are mitigated, RES expansion may lead to surpluses of renewable energy in comparison to what the Western Balkans countries have to achieve under the Energy Community Treaty. This creates new business model opportunities for these countries to export some amount of renewable energy to the EU. The reality for such scenario was assessed within the report 'Renewable energy cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans'.

It takes two to tango, was messaged by Natalia Caldes, who is leading the project consortium, meaning that both sides need to express the interest for cooperation. So far, no tango has happened between the EU and the Western Balkans with only small indications that something will happen in this regard in the near future.

However, new transmission corridors from Montenegro and Albania to Italy may change the situation and enable business models for renewable energy transfers. The danger of this corridor, addressed by CEE Bankwatch Network, is to stimulate the transfer of fossil fuel energy which is cheaper in the Western Balkans than in Italy as there are no obligatory CO2 targets.

That’s the reason why it is necessary to design the cooperation so it can create win-win circumstances for both sides. In this regard, presented reports showed that the cooperation mechanisms, if designed properly, can revitalize local industries and create thousands of new green jobs. EU countries may benefit from cooperation by reaching their renewable targets in more cost effective ways. 

Cihan Sultanoglu, UNDP Regional Director for Europe and CIS underlined three important facts:

1) The UN and the EU goals for sustainable energy are the same, no matter how we call them – SE4ALL or Climate and Energy Package;

2)  We work with the same counterparts – national, regional and local governments of the countries in Western Balkan/South-East Europe and CIS states; and

3) We should work together, aim for mutual synergy, cooperate as closely as possible – the ultimate goal for both the UN and the EU is creating a sustainable future, creating new green jobs, securing sustainable energy for all, reducing poverty, improving access to energy in rural areas, reducing vulnerabilities to climate, economy and energy shocks.  We, both the UNDP and the EU should collaborate more in order to speed up the process of renewable energy expansion in the Western Balkans.

A member of the Group of the Greens in the European Parliament, Davor Škrlec, stated that a number of EU countries already took the advantage of renewable energy expansion. Therefore, renewable energy cooperation could be the path for the Western Balkan countries, which are still stuck in isolated thinking, to exploit their rich renewable energy potential.