In a bid to accelerate Serbia’s journey towards a sustainable and clean energy future, the German Development Cooperation in Serbia has been actively driving initiatives to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in the country. At the forefront of these efforts is the project “Promotion of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Serbia,” implemented by GIZ in partnership with the Ministry of Mining and Energy. The project is led by Dr. Till Barmeier, Project Leader and an important figure in GIZ’s mission to foster a just, clean, and sustainable energy transition in Serbia.
The first phase of the project, initiated in 2022 achieved significant milestones in bolstering the legal and technical framework for prosumers. In an interview, Dr. Till Barmeier highlights the collaboration with the Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy, emphasizing efforts to overcome legal obstacles, streamline grid connection procedures, and cultivate an environment conducive to prosumer installations.
“In the initial phase, we conducted experiments with various prosumer installation models in collaboration with citizens, housing communities, and companies. These experiments allowed us to identify challenges and constraints, leading to recommendations for effective streamlining and detailed guidelines,” explains Dr. Barmeier.
Enhancing capacities of key stakeholders
The German Development Cooperation project also prioritizes enhancement of the key stakeholders’ capabilities in the energy sector through specialized training initiatives. Over 20 technical schoolteachers, 100 photovoltaic system installers, and numerous energy sector representatives attended training and study visits to Germany to learn about international best practices.
In an effort to raise the general public awareness and knowledge on renewable energy, and particularly the prosumer approach to energy production from solar panels, the project also supported the organization of a series of informative events, such as the Solar Podcast series developed in cooperation with the Balkan Green Energy News, the “Solartehnika narodu” course for the general public implemented by the energy cooperative Elektropionir, and a number of public discussions and events organized across the country.
The project also supported the organization of a series of informative events
To highlight the importance and role of women in the energy transition, the project also supported the WISE Serbia network of women in sustainable energy, climate action and environment, including its annual Women in Sustainable Energy – Leadership for change conference held in September 2023. In collaboration with the Center for Promotion of Sustainable Development we established the Female Leader in Sustainable Energy award to recognize efforts and ambition of women in the sector to facilitate the change.
New project phase to boost energy efficiency, help air pollution reduction and heating sector decarbonization
Due to the success of the initial phase, the project has recently been extended until December 2025 with a substantial budget increase. Dr. Barmeier outlines the expanded core objectives, which now include a focus on energy efficiency measures, sustainable heating solutions, and integrated solutions for the energy transition and decarbonization within the building sector.
Explaining the rationale for this shift, Dr. Barmeier notes the considerable room for improvement in energy efficiency in Serbian buildings. Aging structures with inadequate insulation, outdated windows, and inefficient heating systems consume two to three times more energy for heating compared to well-insulated buildings. This not only contributes to air pollution but also strains the electricity grid, limiting possibilities for renewable energy connections.
GIZ aims to pioneer innovative models to identify cost-efficient investments in energy efficienc
In the upcoming phase, apart from continuing to build capacities for the green energy transition of various professional groups, GIZ also aims to pioneer innovative models to identify cost-efficient investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy utilization, and sustainable heating. The focus is on developing financing options to empower citizens to make these critical investments and raising public awareness of their importance and benefits.
Dr. Barmeier points to financing solutions that eliminate significant upfront costs, citing the “Energy rehabilitation of residential, multi-apartment buildings connected to the district heating system – Public ESCO Project” as an example. This initiative, resulting from the collaboration between the Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), offers grants covering 50% of energy rehabilitation costs to qualifying buildings. The remaining 50% is paid by apartment owners through manageable monthly instalments, aligned with heating savings achieved through the rehabilitation program.
GIZ is implementing a regional project in the Western Balkans, promoting the exchange of best practices
This comprehensive approach ensures citizens experience long-term savings and improved living conditions without a substantial impact on their monthly bills. Dr. Barmeier sees this as a pivotal step in fostering a sustainable and resilient energy landscape in Serbia and states that GIZ aims to test and promote similar initiatives that would allow citizens, as well as companies and public buildings to invest in energy efficiency measures and renewable energies without significant upfront costs.
In addition to this project in Serbia, GIZ is concurrently implementing a regional project in the Western Balkans, promoting the exchange of best practices among regional transmission and distribution grid operators, energy agencies, and relevant ministries. As Serbia charts its course toward a greener future, these initiatives underscore GIZ’s and the German Development Cooperation’s dedication to driving substantial change in the region’s energy sector.