Political will is the first of necessary requirements to reach the maximum use of domestic and sustainable energy resources, according to Konstantin Dimitrov, award-winning inventor, scholar and researcher in areas of energy and energy efficiency, with over 470 papers published in Macedonia and abroad.
He told Balkan Green Energy News it is crucial to bring together a pool of intellectual potential and to reach “operational institutional connectedness.” Joint activities of the academic, scientific and research institutions and the industry, underpinned by financial resources, can get us there, according to the expert. „We aim for the stars. If we do not reach them, we will still be on the right track!“ he said.
Dimitrov was a teaching professor at several universities and he lectured at specialization courses in countries including Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, the United States and Germany. He is the founder and president of MACEF – Macedonian Center for Energy Efficiency.
How much time does Southeastern Europe need to replace the unnecessary share of energy and fuel imports with domestic sources, in order to improve trade balance to maximum and to reduce dependence?
It is not possible to answer that unequivocally. Although we are in the same region, some countries have large quantities of coal and it is natural for them to have coal as a primary energy resource. Other countries have a high hydropower potential and it is naturally a priority.
Here in Macedonia, we have coal for up to the next 20 years. After that, we have to import oil, natural gas and electricity – to be totally import-dependent and, because of that, with limited sovereignty. The potential opportunity for satisfying energy needs from own resources is through the accelerated construction of facilities using renewables, with increased investments in energy efficiency measures. Energy efficiency is the best energy resource – it reduces costs and environmental pollution.
In that sense, what are the trends in the use of geothermal energy in former Yugoslavia, compared to the results of your earlier research? How big the potential role of the renewable source and what is its place in the future of the countries of the region?
Unfortunately, according to recent surveys, Macedonia has no large geothermal resources, and they are in the category of hot water with temperatures up to 76oC. In the three major geothermal areas, hot water is mainly used in the agriculture sector (greenhouses), and partially for buildings heating.
Our preliminary investigation, which was presented to the public, showed Macedonia could satisfy fully the needs for electricity from renewable sources by 2050. That goal is not easy or cheap to achieve. It is necessary to shift the manner of thinking in society and also the activities, which is a difficult and time-consuming task.
Our assumptions are based on serious implementation of measures for energy efficiency to reduce needs for energy, intelligent management of production and consumption of energy in the whole society (not only electrical energy), construction of all possible facilities for the use of hydro potential, maximization of the use of wind energy and the use of the enormous potential of solar energy. It is achievable and not utopia.
What is the degree of dependence on fossil fuels in Macedonia?
Energy in Macedonia depends on the generation of electricity from low quality coal and 50% is imported energy. Limits to coal reserves are forcing us to look for other, alternative energy carriers, primarily natural gas. But the situation in the world has an adverse effect on us, especially after the suspension of the South Stream and Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline projects.
We are forced to change our way of thinking and turn to the maximum use of renewable energy in all spheres of society.
The great powers postponed the realization for at least five years with modified conditions and directions – across Greece and Albania to Italy.
We are forced to change our way of thinking and turn to the maximum use of renewable energy in all spheres of society. We are already working in this direction and try for the concept to be accepted as equal in the preparation of strategic documents.
The Balkans is an area recognizable by millions of unfinished houses, without façade. There are substantial funds ready in banks for commercial lending for energy efficiency measures in the region, but citizens are still too cautious. Is the key to informing people better about the benefits of home refurbishment?
Informing customers is always useful. In Macedonia, multiple instances make significant efforts through the media, advertisements of manufacturers of related equipment, non-governmental organizations and relevant ministries. The state subsidizes the purchase of thermal solar panels, and is prepared to create a fund for subsidies to buy energy efficient stoves. Firewood is used in over 70% of households in Macedonia. A good example is the financial assistance through USAID’s Habitat programme with subsidies for the restoration of private homes. We lobby for the best practices to be transferred to the country.
How is energy poverty, as a great part of economic troubles, addressed in Macedonia?
The state administration makes efforts to help the most affected families. Socially disadvantaged households are awarded vouchers each month to cover the cost of energy.
What important projects is MACEF involved in and what is on the horizon?
The advantage of specialized associations of engineers, consultants, analysts is their flexibility and capacity to quickly form strong teams to solve specific tasks. The number of regular employees in MACEF varies. There are currently six experts with master’s degrees and PhDs who possess licences as engineers in designing, supervision, reviewing and energy audits.
Although there is still the belief that big fish eat the little fish, I personally believe that fast fish eat the slow ones. In the immediate implementation are three projects funded through the Intelligent Energy programme. RePublic_ZEB is for the refurbishment of the public building stock towards near zero energy buildings. Streetlight EPC project covers energy performance contracting, while Reach stands for Reduce Energy use And Change Habits.
The financing of one project is implemented through programme Horizon 2020: multEE – facilitating multi-level governance for energy efficiency – and it aims to improve the consistency and quality of energy efficiency policy planning, implementation and monitoring between different administrative levels. The next is Green for Growth Fund, Southeast Europe (GGF) – Investing in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – consulting services for loan approval for Halkbank.
European Climate Foundation is helping the De-carbonization of Electricity Sector in Macedonia, and GIZ facilitates the preparation of the third national energy efficiency action plan.
We are partners in international consortia in several potential projects, or invited as a sub-contracting party. There is ELEM’s district heating cogeneration system Bitola, the Western Balkans Regional Energy Efficiency Programme Phase II – Policy Dialogue (REEP Plus) by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Energy Community Secretariat, as well as two smaller bilateral cooperation endeavours with colleagues from Austria and Hungary – they have to be project leaders.
USAID’s Habitat programme provides subsidies for the restoration of private homes.
We are working intensively on the expert use of LEAP and energy PLAN software as well as the preparation of documentation for the participation in Horizon 2020 for software development for cost-benefit analysis in the sector of energy efficiency measures in buildings, a European Union directive requirement.
You have been involved in programmes for local authorities in Macedonia to launch energy efficiency projects. What are the results?
We regularly offer and organize training of municipal officials as well as state institutions to implement EU rules more easily as a signatory to the Energy Charter Treaty with the Energy Community.
How do you assess the progress achieved by associations of municipal governments, based on your experience with the activities of the Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Energy Efficiency (ORF-EE), implemented through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)?
MultEE international project came as a result of previous actions that we implemented in Macedonia through ORF-EE. The same applies to the preparation of the Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) for the City of Skopje as part of the Covenant of Mayors.
Based on this cooperation in Macedonia, the Energy Audits Rulebook includes methods for calculating energy savings using a top-down and bottom-up methodology and application of the monitoring and verification platform (MVP).