Climate Change

Energy 2021 conference: experts recommend coal phaseout and transition to renewables as best solution for Serbia’s energy sector development

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July 26, 2021

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Published:

July 26, 2021

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The optimal solution for the development of Serbia’s energy sector is a hybrid model that entails a coal phaseout and transition to renewable energy sources, with natural gas and hydrogen as transitional fuels. This is one of the key messages from a conference titled ‘Energy 2021 – towards a green recovery,’ says Professor Nikola Rajaković, president of the Association of Energy Sector Specialists and Power Engineers of Serbia, which organized the event.

The Energy 2021 conference, which saw presentations of more than 80 papers and brought together over 200 Serbian and international energy sector specialists, was aimed at promoting the energy transition as a development opportunity, encouraging a wider application of renewable energy, establishing a platform for dialogue between key actors, but also enabling the development of software tools for the optimization of the operation of electric power systems with a high share of renewables.

Climate change could become a threat to energy and other infrastructure, agricultural production, water availability, and public health

Rajaković says that participants in the conference acknowledged the obvious risks that climate change poses to Serbia’s sustainable development. Impacts of climate change are already in sight, and it could become a threat to energy and other infrastructure, agricultural production, water availability, and public health. On the other hand, the existing dependence on fossil fuels could undermine the competitiveness of Serbia’s economy in the medium and long term due to the introduction of the EU’s carbon border tax, according to Rajaković.

Reliance on fossil fuels could undermine the competitiveness of Serbia’s economy

Experts gathered at the conference on Mt. Zlatibor considered four scenarios for the development of Serbia’s energy sector: coal, renewable energy sources, nuclear energy, and natural gas/hydrogen.

According to Rajaković, these four options are all but irreconcilable, but discussions at the conference showed that the optimal solution is a hybrid model that involves coal phaseout. Also, introducing nuclear energy is an option only if the development model based on renewables proves to be unfeasible.

He also noted that it very important to take into account the particularities of Serbia’s energy sector and its very low energy efficiency.

The reality of the energy sector is to a great extent in collision with the proclaimed goals of both Serbia and the EU as well as with the obligations towards the Energy Community and the Parris Agreement

Serbia to face isolation if chooses not to follow EU’s decarbonization agenda

Serbia’s energy sector, the conference heard, is responsible for over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts warned that the energy sector decarbonization, a process the EU intends to complete by 2050, should be urgently planned and initiated in the next few years, but the question remains whether Serbia will opt for the European decarbonization agenda or whether it is resolved to follow its own path.

To avoid the expected negative social impacts, it is necessary to prepare programs for an economically efficient and just transition

If Serbia chooses the EU’s agenda, then it must respect external factors (the European Green Deal, carbon pricing…). In case it opts for its own path, then it risks being isolated and marginalized, according to Rajaković. Since an energy transition involves adverse social impacts on certain groups (especially due to reduced coal production and use), it is necessary to prepare programs that will ensure an economically efficient and just transition. This would entail restructuring the regions in Serbia that depend on fossil fuels and lignite mining, according to Rajaković.

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