Despite being a regional leader when it comes to wind farms, our country is still seriously lagging behind the world and many green goals remain out of reach.
From 2017 to 2021, the countries of the Western Balkans expanded the capacity of renewable sources by 1.6 GW, of which 0.5 GW is located in Serbia, the report of the organization REN21 shows.
Our country is leading the way in the construction of wind farms: wind energy capacities have been expanded by 381 MW. We are followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina (135 MW) and Montenegro (118 MW). North Macedonia did not build wind farms during the five-year period, while Albania did not submit a construction report.
It is interesting to mention that one of the most important European projects in the field of renewable sources is being implemented in Serbia. This is the Maestrale Ring wind farm near Subotica, with a planned installed capacity of around 630 MW. It will be one of the most powerful wind farms on our continent.
From 2017 to 2021, Serbia built solar power plants with a capacity of 35 MW, which is more than twice as much as North Macedonia, where the solar energy capacity was expanded from 78 MW. Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks better than our country in this field with 39 MW of newly installed solar power plants.
Albania expanded its energy mix with solar plants with a capacity of 21 MW, Montenegro 3 MW.
Our country achieved its goals in the field of green energy by 2020 only when it comes to heating and cooling, where we exceeded the desired share of 30% of renewable sources. In the final energy consumption, we were within reach of success: we achieved a percentage of renewable sources of 26.3%, while the aspirations were slightly higher and went towards 27%.
On the other hand, the shift away from fossil fuels in transportation has completely failed: instead of decarbonizing 10% of this sector, we managed to green only 1.2%. The goal of producing 36.6% of electricity from renewable sources remained out of our reach, because at the end of 2020 we stopped at 30.7%, according to REN21 data.
But the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment do not stop. Countries around the world are setting ever-increasing ambitions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the Western Balkans, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) differ among themselves, and the most comprehensive and ambitious commitments were made by North Macedonia – 51% less harmful emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. Our country submitted its improved NDC at the end of August this year and it implies a reduction of harmful emissions by 33.3% by the end of the decade.
By the way, the recently published REN21 report is much more comprehensive and, in addition to the Western Balkans, focuses on the energy transition in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
A total of 17 countries from that area, which is inhabited by over 300 million people (4% of the world’s population), in the past five years have installed 21 GW of renewable sources and now have a capacity of over 100 GW of green energy. No matter how commendable this progress is at the regional level compared to the past, compared to the current development of renewable sources globally, the situation is not particularly impressive. In the same time period, the world built over 1000 GW of renewables, which means that only 2% of newly installed green energy capacity came from the countries covered by the new REN21 report.
For the first time, the increase in this region was mostly driven by the development of solar energy (58%) and wind energy (25%), while previously hydropower dominated. The capacity factor for solar energy production increased by more than 10% in the region, while the capacity factor for wind energy production increased by 7% in the observed period. Most solar power plants and wind farms were built by Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Despite the recorded progress, the average share of renewable sources in the final energy consumption of the focus countries was 18.2% in 2019, which is roughly the same as five years earlier.
According to REN21, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency offer an opportunity for a secure and sovereign supply of electricity to the region. Despite the unprecedented growth of renewable sources in electricity production, their potential in the transportation and heating and cooling sectors remains untapped.
“In order to ensure a low-carbon future with stable energy costs, all countries must commit today to establish energy systems based on renewable energy sources,” concluded the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Olga Algajerova. “This can be achieved through the implementation of adequate policies, long-term financing in the direction of the development of domestic supply chains and stronger regional cooperation”, Klima writes.