EU’s Role in speeding up energy transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine

EU’s Role in speeding up energy transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine

Documentation

Obviously, the destiny of sustainable transition of Western Balkan and Eastern European economies is above all in control of the respective countries themselves. Still, the EU is in a decisive position to create conditions for a dynamic of change and a successful modernisation.

Insights from a discussion in the European Parliament on 22 November 2018

The upsetting pictures and data on pollution of air, soil and water presented by Denis Zisko from the Centre for Ecology and Energy in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, drastically made clear that many years of various action plans and transposition of EU legislation on energy and environment did not really make a difference on the ground. In Tuzla operate four blocks of a coal fired Thermal Power Plant, the youngest one is 40 years old. Filters for desulphurisation and other pollution control instruments are widely missing, ashes containing heavy metals are disposed openly and contaminate air, soil and water. The burden for health of the local population is huge, causing tens of millions in additional expenditure in the health system. While the replacement of old power plants with the already projected new coal blocks would indeed serve to reduce most severe pollutions, due to an extension of overall capacity the CO2 emissions would however increase. A sharp contrast to the declared goal of decarbonisation. The existing emission reduction plan would be in fact taken as an excuse to further postpone emission reduction measures.  

This example perfectly brings up the painful subject of non-implementation of policies and lack of enforcement of valid rules and procedures. To make this happen, the societies need to establish rule of law and functioning state institutions. Development depends on governance and democratic control of authorities and their independence from commercial interests of corporations. The efforts to win the green transition have to be related to this broader context.

At the same time, however, the political will of leading decision makers is often lacking. Mirjana Jovanović of the NGO Belgrade Open School elaborated in the event on the Serbian case. The old mind set of a centralized energy system based on domestic coal as guarantee for jobs and energy security is still deeply rooted in the country. It is not coming as a surprise that Serbian government had even convened in an open pit lignite mine as a PR stunt to support coal industry and coal remains a central pillar in the long-term vision for the Serbian energy supply. Significant subsidies for fossil industries are in place. In such a situation a Green energy transition cannot just be imposed from outside, as Aleksandar Macura of the Serbian think tank RES Foundation underlined. European policy instruments and institutions like the European Energy Community and its Secretariat in Vienna could not replace national development strategies. Transition efforts need public and political support in the respective countries so education and information campaigns on climate change and economic opportunities of decarbonisation need to remain a priority. Looking to Germany, Poland or Greece it becomes clear that this is not an issue of Western Balkan or Eastern European countries alone. It requires also holistic approaches taking into account social consequences for regions and towns most affected by such changes in the structure of the economy.

Given this situation in the region, why the EU should care at all? To answer this question it is worthwhile to recall the context in which the European Energy Community was set up back in 2005. After the terribly bloody disintegration of former Yugoslavia its mission to facilitate energy security and social stability was very much seen as a tool to re-build mutual trust, solidarity and peace in the region. Listening to the rhetoric of current nationalist political elites in the Western Balkans one might conclude that a lot remains to be done in this respect. The good news is that the transition towards a sustainable energy system has so much to offer also for this purpose.

First, energy reforms are about human rights and livelihood. Introducing clean energy without or with at least less negative externalities for health and environment will decentralise and diversify the energy markets and enable local communities to engage in energy supply on their own and according to their needs. This is particularly important in a region like the Western Balkan where the share of network energy is so low, as also Aleksandar Macura pointed out. Wind and solar have become most competitive energy sources globally. Investments into efficiency are most effective to fight widespread energy poverty. This shows that the energy transition can contribute to improving quality of life, social stability and economic perspectives for the region reducing the welfare gap between the EU and its neighbourhood. Second, regional cooperation e.g. in the electricity sector would bring economic benefits for the involved countries of around 270 million Euros annually, says Janez Kopač, head of the Energy Community Secretariat in Vienna, that has commissioned a study on this matter. National markets alone are too small to balance demand peaks and fluctuations in generation from renewables and to maintain reserve capacities in a cost efficient way. After all, market integration not only within the region but with the neighbouring EU countries will create further benefits and pave the way for further European integration.

What can the EU do to support the transition?

The Energy Community Treaty is actually an extremely important tool and mechanism for a modernisation partnership. It is not really daring to claim that without the Energy Community and the work of its Secretariat most member countries’ energy sectors would perform much weaker and certainly no less carbon intensive. As Iryna Holovko from the Ukrainian NGO Ecoaction confirmed in her presentation on progress of energy sector reforms, in case of Ukraine the Energy Community treaty in line with the EU association agreement were – despite all shortcomings - the most important drivers of energy sector reforms. Technical and legal support from the Secretariat is highly competent. However, the role of the Energy Community is limited. On the one hand, it has very small influence on the internal factors in the member countries with regard to rule of law issues and public support. On the other hand, it depends on the EU to set the right conditions for its work and on the commitment of the EU and its member countries to give the energy transition agenda the necessary political weight in the relations with the respective Western Balkan or Eastern partnership countries in general.

In contrast to the Energy Community Secretariat, the European Commission and the member states have a broader range of instruments to engage with governments and societies to foster good governance and to support activities conducive to the transition agenda on the level of communities, businesses, (vocational) education, research and democratic civil society.

But also within the framework of the Energy Community Treaty the European Commission as the key party to the Treaty needs to act more proactively. The Treaty requires new tools to ensure implementation of rules and compliance with the related acquis. Instruments of other branches of the Commission such as the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) should be more closely linked to progress in the implementation of the Energy Community agenda. Furthermore, the European Commission should do more to close the legal gap between the EU countries on one hand and the Energy Community on the other – this was Janez Kopač’ central message. Without making more parts of the acquis mandatory also for the Energy Community countries there are no effective incentives to phase out dirty and carbon intensive generation capacities and the market integration cannot be realized effectively. This refers for example to state aid regulations and CO2 emission prices that are currently not part of the EnC Treaty. The Commission should push for a full scale inclusion of the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package into the Treaty. As a first step, the Coal Regions in Transition Platform and its funding instruments can be opened for the partner countries in order to promote constructive discussion about a just transition and future economic perspectives in most affected regions. This would send strong messages to those governments and investors that plan new fossil capacities.

No doubt, that the support to energy efficiency should remain a top priority of EU’s technical and financial support mechanisms. Efficiency strengthens the competitiveness, reduces fuel costs and negative externalities from generation. Potentials remain huge. Parallel, the EU is offering significant support to interconnectivity of grids and markets. A future integrated system based on renewables certainly depends on such links. However, in some cases the declared priority infrastructure could serve rather the export interests of particular fossil or nuclear companies thus impeding the transition towards more sustainable energies. This is the case for example with the planned transmission line from the Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant Khmelnytskyi to Poland, as Iryna Holovko highlighted. In order to strengthen local development and to create higher acceptance and a lobby for renewables the EU should particularly encourage citizen energy projects. A major obstacle for the development of wind and solar in the region is the higher risk surcharge that investors have to pay for loans to finance renewable energy projects. The same wind turbine might thus cost twice as much in Ukraine compared to Germany. The EU can at the same time pressure countries to establish more reliable framework conditions and set up financial instruments to de-risk such investments.

A rapid expansion of renewable generation capacities is needed not least because the overaged power plants like in Tuzla with their devastating effects on health and environment have to be replaced as soon as possible. Viable alternatives to new coal power plants need to become visible quickly.
 

Dokumentation - EU’s Role in speeding up energy transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine

 


Details of the event

OPENING REMARKS with short statements from:

  • Robert Sperfeld, Heinrich Böll Foundation
  • Benedek Javor, MEP Greens/EFA
  • Mirjana Jovanović, Belgrade Open School - Serbia [presentation pdf]
  • Denis Žiško, Center for Ecology and Energy - Bosnia and Herzegovina [presentation pdf]
  • Janez Kopač , Energy Community Secretariat, Vienna
  • Iryna Holovko, Ecoaction, Ukraine

PANEL 1
High Carbon-Lock-In vs. Low Carbon Opportunity in the Western Balkans including 3 case studies from Western Balkan

Introduction / Moderation

  • Visar Azemi, Balkan Green Foundation

Speakers

  • Mirjana Jovanović, Belgrade Open School - Serbia
  • B. Ejupi, Institute for Development Policy - Kosovo
  • Denis Žiško, Center for Ecology and Energy - Bosnia and Herzegovina


Questions and Answers / Conclusions

  • Visar  Azemi, Balkan Green Foundation

PANEL II
Introduction / Moderation

  • Ada Amon, E3G

Speakers

  • Aleksandar Macura, RES Foundation, Serbia
    Structural Strengths and Weaknesses of Energy Community and EU Accession Frameworks for Facilitation of Energy Sector Reforms
  • Janez Kopač , Energy Community Secretariat, Vienna [presentation pdf]
    Pathways to win the Energy Transition in the Region
  • Iryna Holovko, Ecoaction, Ukraine [presentation pdf]
    Drivers and Challenges of Transition in Ukraine
  • Colin Wolfe, Director General DG NEAR
    The Role of Enlargement Negotiations Fostering Low Carbon Transition

Questions and Answers / Conclusions

  • Ada Amon, E3G

SUMARY OF THE CONFERENCE with short statements from:

  • Robert Sperfeld, Heinrich Böll Foundation
  • Benedek Javor, MEP Greens/EFA
  • Mirjana Jovanović, Belgrade Open School - Serbia
  • Denis Žiško, Center for Ecology and Energy - Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Janez Kopač , Energy Community Secretariat, Vienna
  • Iryna Holovko, Ecoaction, Ukraine

Mehr Infos finden Sie hier -  https://object4.de/ev/20181122/wbau/

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