The proposed Law on Renewable Energy Sources (in the meantime formally adopted by the Serbian Parliament) will finally create the conditions for Serbia to use its solar energy potential, attract investments, reduce environmental pollution and enable citizens and companies to produce energy for self-consumption. Investor’s interest is vast, so by 2030, it is possible to install solar power plants with a capacity of 1 GW while installing solar panels on only 10% of roofs would elevate the total capacity of photovoltaic systems by 400 MW to 600 MW. These are the main messages from the First Big Conference on Solar Energy in Serbia, held in Belgrade and organized by Balkan Green Energy News.
The conference was followed online by more than 1,000 people, which confirmed the growing interest for investment in utility-scale solar, and among citizens and small businesses to install solar panels in order to reduce energy bills and pollution. There is room for expansion, as the capacity of the installed solar power plants is only 11 MW in total, while the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has estimated the potential at 3.6 GW.
The law will introduce auctions, conditions for market development, prosumers, energy cooperatives
The Law on Renewable Energy Sources, which should be adopted soon, will introduce auctions for premiums, public calls for strategic partnership between the state and investors, and the conditions for the development of the electricity market aimed at enabling the developers of renewables to enter the market. Citizens and companies will be given the opportunity to become prosumers as well as to establish energy cooperatives or communities.
Balkan Green Energy News organized the conference in cooperation with the Ministry of Mining and Energy, the Energy Community Secretariat, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, and Serbian Association of District Heating Plants, with the support of BDK Advokati, CWP Global, Energize, WV-International NBT, UGT Renewables, Luxor, Solid, Hitachi ABB, Al Pack, DDOR, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Huge interest in investing
The speakers that opened the conference have agreed that the Law on Renewable Energy Sources would open the door for a solar boom.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mining and Energy Zorana Mihajlović said solar power plants would be the main driver, together with hydropower plants, of the energy transition and decarbonization process in Serbia, with a target to increase the share of renewables in electricity production to 40% by 2040.
According to Founder and Editor of Balkan Green Energy News Branislava Jovičić, the solar industry can be a game-changer and it can significantly contribute to employment and the recovery of the Serbian economy from the COVID-19 pandemic. New legislation combined with investor interest are providing an opportunity for a big leap forward in the next five or ten years, she added.
It is possible to install 1 GW of solar power plants by 2030
The boost in investor activity was confirmed by Vice President of CWP for Serbia Maja Turković, and Zsuzsanna Hargitai, Regional Director for the Western Balkans at the EBRD, who underscored that the international financial institution “lost count” of those interested in investing in renewables in Serbia.
Hargitai said the EBRD is ready to support such projects, including the household sector, and Turković believes Serbia is capable of adding 1 GW in solar power plants by the end of the decade.
Director of Energize Vladimir Popović stressed both citizens and the industry would achieve savings by building their own solar systems. It brings technical progress for companies, he added. Energize offers free advice and even free feasibility studies.
According to the Energy Community Secretariat Director Janez Kopač, the preparation of the new law initiated a revolution in projected investments in renewable energy in Serbia.
Roofs and abandoned coal mines are preferred sites first solar installations
Speakers at a panel called Utility-scale solar power plants in Serbia – a small step for humanity, a big step for Serbia’s energy transition revealed that solar power plants with an installed capacity of 400 MW are in the pipeline. Rooftops have the priority together with abandoned coal mines. The panel moderator was Dragoljub Cibulić, a senior partner at the law office BDK Advokati.
Jovanka Atanacković, state secretary of the Ministry of Mining and Energy, said auctions for wind and solar would be separated. The decision on quotas will be made with regard to the fact that Serbia has to replace 4.4 GW of coal-fired power plant capacity by 2050, she stressed and added that it implies adding renewables facilities with a capacity of 8 GW to 10 GW.
The number of projects that are currently in the pipeline will also be crucial for the decision. According to Marko Janković, head of the Directorate for the Electricity Market at Serbia’s transmission system operator Elektromreža Srbije (EMS), the company received requests to connect 4.5 GW, of which 400 MW in photovoltaic facilities. Janković asserted the new energy legislation is a necessary step to continue electricity market liberalization.
Auctions are just a transitory solution until all renewable energy producers enter the market
The market is in the essence of the new regulation, said Vice President of CWP for Serbia Maja Turković. She said it would open the path toward the goal of abolishing the subsidies and introducing the conditions for all power producers to enter the market.
The regulatory framework for investing in solar was unfavorable so far, but company Al Pack already began installing a 1.1 MW rooftop PV plant. It will be the largest system of the kind in Serbia. The firm’s co-owner Nemanja Mikać said it has been developing solutions for energy storage for the last two years.
“The ultimate goal is to develop a system that integrates batteries, solar power plants, and wind parks and results in the cheapest energy in the market,” he said.
Solar is a tool to decarbonize district heating
Increasing the use of renewable sources in district heating systems could solve several issues including air pollution, heating costs, and the balancing of solar and wind power plants, according to the participants at a panel discussion called ReDEWeB – solar-thermal as an element of sustainable urban energy systems in the process of the energy transition.
Large solar thermal projects are emerging as an excellent solution for the decarbonization of district heating systems in Serbia. Panel moderator Bojan Bogdanović, manager of the EBRD’s Renewable District Energy in the Western Balkans (ReDEWeB) fund, said an investment pays off in 10 to 11 years, and that the energy produced after that would be almost free.
Solar thermal projects are being prepared for heating plants in Novi Sad, Bor, Niš, Pančevo and Zrenjanin
Through the ReDEWeB fund, EBRD is working on the decarbonization of the district heating systems in the Western Balkans. Projects are being prepared for Novi Sad, Bor, Niš, Pančevo and Zrenjanin.
Serbia has already made progress in the application of solar thermal: Pančevo hosts the Balkan region’s largest solar thermal system. The city intends, with the help of the EBRD, to install another new solar thermal plant on 10 hectares, and it should be built by Austria-based SOLID Solar Energy Systems GmbH.
The facility in Pančevo will be able to store waste energy from nearby industrial facilities as well, said Hrvoje Milošević, sales director at SOLID.
Dušan Macura, head of production and distribution at the Novi Sad District Heating Company, presented the solar thermal project under development in the city of Novi Sad in cooperation with the EBRD. Dejan Stojanović, director of the Serbian Association of District Heating Plants, underscored the importance of incentives for producers of heat using renewable energy and noted they would be introduced with the new law.
Clean energy will be a must for doing business
Speakers at a panel called Solar energy for the industry – reduce the costs, green your business! have briefly portrayed the matters that companies will face in the decades to come – the use of green energy will become not only a way to reduce costs, but also a precondition to continue doing business.
Businesses can use solar energy to safeguard their business from price shocks on the market, but also to enter various markets and cooperate with partners. It is clear now that there is a growing number of firms that won’t do business with those that use fossil fuels.
Vladimir Popović, director of Energize, elaborated on how companies can reduce the share of energy costs in overall expenses and protect themselves from turbulences in energy markets. By installing a solar power plant, a business demonstrates social responsibility, and how it is taking care of the environment, he said.
An important element for companies that decide to install solar power systems is to make sure the project is implemented properly. Nino Sijerić, business development manager at Germany-based Luxor Solar, elaborated on important details.
They will determine the project’s effect on company costs and revenues, he said.
An accelerated procedure for connecting the prosumers is being prepared
There is good news for everyone who wants to become a prosumer, and above all for households, from the country’s distribution system operator Elektrodistribucija Srbije.
In the next few months, the state-owned company will adopt rules to fast-track the connection of rooftop solar systems of up to 10.8 kW. The procedure is intended for anyone who wants to connect such a facility to the distribution grid and Elektrodistribucija Srbije will have to send back the reply within 30 days or will pay penalties.
At a panel discussion called Solar for citizens – democratization of energy or how to get your own solar power plant?, Dušan Vukotić, a specialist at the operations directorate of Elektrodistribucija Srbije, said the company is ready to do its part.
Informing the citizens will be crucial for the success of the prosumer concept, which enables democratization of energy
Miodrag Vuković, owner of solar energy solutions provider Conseko, explained the requirements for citizens who wish to install solar panels and broke down the investment needs.
Obviously, it is crucial to inform the public about what it means to be a prosumer, according to Ana Džokić from energy cooperative Elektropionir and Jasmina Trhulj, head of electricity at the Energy Community Secretariat. Explaining the concept to citizens will be important for its success and the overall success of the democratization of energy, they said.
Marko Putnik, head of brand positioning in DDOR insurance, presented an offer to insure rooftop solar systems. It takes only EUR 5 per month to insure a PV system worth EUR 5,000 and protect it against physical damage, theft and fire, he added.