Renewables

EPCG NET conference – Western Balkans must join forces to access energy transition grants

EPCG NET conference Western Balkans join forces access energy transition grants

Photo: EPCG

Published

May 31, 2024

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Published:

May 31, 2024

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There can be no energy transition without the European Union’s stronger financial assistance and support, and targeted grants are necessary. It is one of the main messages from Energy Symposium EPCG NET 2024, which was kicked off today in Budva, Montenegro. The countries of the region need to join forces in relations with the Energy Community to access funds, the participants pointed out.

The seaside town of Budva in Montenegro is hosting the two-day Energy Symposium EPCG NET 2024, which began today. It was organized by state-owned power utility Elektroprivreda Crne Gore (EPCG), in cooperation with the Association of Energy Sector Specialists, based in Serbia.

“God gave us an inexhaustible resource. The entire energy transition will head in the direction of maximizing the utilization of the Sun’s energy. In energy, every kind of weather should suit us. We are here to help each other,” President of EPCG’s Board of Directors Milutin Đukanović said.

Minister of Energy and Mining Saša Mujović said Montenegro has great potential and the opportunity to materialize it but that the path from raw potential to the final product is often thorny and long and that it demands endless focus.

“Montenegro didn’t know how to utilize its potential. It decided to fight someone else’s battles or some less important battles. It decided to neglect its existential problems, to miss chances for development. That way Montenegro forgot a very important fact, which is that someone unsuccessful and poor is not a good and desirable friend for anyone and I hope the lesson was learned for good,” he stated.

Western Balkans need same development funds like Western, Central Europe

As quoted by EPCG in a press release, Mujović expressed the belief there is no energy transition and cannot be one without stronger financial assistance and support from Europe.

“We are asking for and we want continuous and strong support from the European Union, from the Energy Community. And I am not asking for support just for Montenegro, but for all Western Balkan countries. I want the same treatment for the Western Balkans like for the countries of Central Europe. I would like for us to be able to access the same development funds as the countries of Western and Central Europe. Only then can we speak about a joint intention to secure enough clean energy for all Europeans,” Mujović said at the opening of EPCG NET.

He stressed that targeted grants would solve the issue.

“We are late with adopting several key documents. The first among them is the National Energy and Climate Plan, which is the basis for everything. All our activities, investments and attracting foreign and domestic partners depend on what that plan stipulates,” Mujović stated.

Montengero is late with the adoption of NECP and three energy laws

The Law on the Use of Energy from Renewable Sources, Law on Energy and Law on Cross-Border Exchange of Electricity and Natural Gas are all late, he added and underscored that it is the basic precondition for linking Montenegro’s electricity market with the international market.

He pointed out that Montenegro doesn’t have enough transmission and distribution capacities. National electric power companies can’t conduct the energy transition on their own as they lack funds, Mujović said and the other panelists agreed.

Lorkowski: Montenegro’s progress should be praised

In the view of Energy Community Secretariat Director Artur Lorkowski, regional cooperation is a strong tool and the region must integrate and join the European Union’s energy market before the start of 2026. At the same time, he pointed to the legislation packages adopted in December 2022.

“There should be a cohesive framework to achieve the European Union’s energy objectives. Every state must carefully start harmonizing its laws. Montenegro has achieved progress which should be praised without any reserve,” Lorkowski said.

EU’s Growth Plan for Western Balkans is integration opportunity

EU Ambassador to Montenegro Oana-Cristina Popa noted at the first panel discussion at EPCG NET that the objective of the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans is to integrate the region into the EU’s single market in parallel to the accession process.

“The accession process is very important with regard to business and the economy, because it is a factor affecting everyone, and energy is a factor that touches everything. This is why building the joint regional market is in the context of the EU accession,” Popa said.

In her words, the rule of law is of key significance for the investment climate.

Assistant Minister of Energy and Mining of Serbia Jovana Joksimović said a government needs to establish an institutional frame, to give strategic directions, together with society, expert community, the private sector. “It is the only way for us to have a successful green transition,” she added.

Many investors are interested in Republic of Srpska though EU has halted financial support

Minister of Energy and Mining of the Republic of Srpska Petar Đokić said the authorities there have adopted the entire legislation necessary to respond to the challenges in the transition.

“The laws were implemented a long time ago. We opened up very much for investments. We have exceptionally many investors. Today the interest in investing in the Republic of Srpska, in the energy sector, are even significantly bigger than the potentials and our capability to respond to such requests. Now we are in the phase of moving into the operational materialization of the projects that were started,” Đokić stated.

The Republic of Srpska is one of the two political entities making up Bosnia and Herzegovina. The other one is called the Federation of BiH.

The minister said no European financial institution is currently financing any project in the entity.

Laws, market stability are crucial for attracting investments

The Head of Electricity in Energy Community Secretariat Jasmina Trhulj stressed that the organization needs clear plans and especially integrated national energy and climate plans, which the contracting parties are obligated to adopt.

“We also expect a stable legal and regulatory framework. Investments go where there are stable regulations and legal framework as well as a stable electricity market, which sends price signals,” Trhulj said.

The region must accelerate investments in the power grid, said Remon Zakaria from the EBRD

She told the panelists and the audience that the Energy Community strives to help the governments as much as possible to fulfil their obligations. “The entire Energy Community Treaty was made with the purpose to attract investments in the region,” Trhulj added.

The Head of Montenegro in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Remon Zakaria highlighted the EU’s Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), which provides an opportunity to support infrastructure development grants.

“It is moving toward strengthening the electricity grid as, obviously, electricity grids are the key obstacle preventing new capacities in the region to be completely utilized. You have to invest in electricity transmission grids and accelerate these investments. It is an EU’s tool that can help exactly there,” Zakaria said.

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