This year was challenging, to say the least, but the global health crisis resulted in a major push for solutions making life more sustainable during the pandemic and to get the economy back on its feet in a sustainable way. The energy transition and pollution were the most popular topics in 2020 for the readers of the English language section on Balkan Green Energy News.
The most popular stories covered the transformation of the electricity market in the region and Europe as well as the surge in renewable energy projects, of which a large chunk is intended for the replacement of power plants that use fossil fuels. The awareness of air pollution is evidently spreading, hopefully to create a critical mass for abandoning the use of coal.
The Western Balkans have a lot of work to do to qualify for the European Union’s sustainable recovery funds or they will face a potentially devastating tax on carbon dioxide. Concerned with the lack of information, citizens in the Loznica region in Serbia joined forces with environmentalists to challenge a project for the exploitation of lithium ore.
Reforms in Greece, which underpinned investments in renewables, filled our most read list throughout the year together with the efforts there to shut down lignite-fueled facilities. A group of university professors and energy experts is advocating for a similar kind of energy transition in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Stay safe in the new year and stay tuned for more news and interpretation of green energy and sustainability developments in the Balkans and beyond! You can also check out the most popular articles of 2020 on our Serbian language page.
1. Model for bilateral contracts between power producers and consumers
One alternative to state subsidy schemes is the corporate power purchase agreement. Some countries in the region have begun to replace traditional feed-in tariff subsidy schemes with competitive auctions. Lawyers from CMS break down the legal issues here for Balkan Green Energy News.
2. EU earmarks EUR 9 billion for Western Balkans development
The European Commission presented the guidelines for the Green Agenda for Western Balkans, deriving from the European Green Deal. Later, at a summit in Sofia on November 10, the leaders of the states in the region endorsed the document implying climate action, carbon pricing, market-based renewables support schemes and the abolishment of coal subsidies.
The move opened the way for the use of the EUR 9 billion Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.
3. Energy regulatory body in Greece registers record in applications for renewable energy projects
Project developers submitted 1,864 applications with a combined capacity of a whopping 45.5 GW, mostly for photovoltaics, after the Greek government simplified the procedure for energy projects and introduced a fully electronic system. The country aims to replace its lignite-fueled thermal power plants with renewables. Greece has also introduced auctions and enabled the establishment of energy cooperatives.
4. Albania gets lower power prices after rolling out renewable energy auctions
At the country’s second auction for utility-scale photovoltaics, Voltalia from France won by offering electricity for just EUR 24.89 per MWh, a regional record. The concession contract was then signed in July. Albania plans to conduct four auctions in 2021 including the ongoing tender for the 100 MW Spitalle solar power plant.
5. First emissions trading system in Western Balkans
Montenegro issued a framework for auctions of emission credits together with trade and transfers like in the EU. It was the first country in the region to introduce the system. Later, after a general election, the country vowed to ban the construction of small hydropower plants and highlighted environmental protection among the new government’s policy pillars.
6. ELES has the responsibility to help a socially effective transition to a carbon-free future in Slovenia
Our most popular interview of 2020 was with Chief Executive Officer Aleksander Mervar of Slovenia’s power transmission system operator ELES. He said expanding the electricity grid and the company’s development projects would enable an increase in electricity transmission over long distances and the integration of renewable energy units and electromobility.
7. The rebound from the coronavirus crisis may return greenhouse gases to previous levels
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels saw a record drop this year as the COVID-19 pandemic almost ground the economy to a halt worldwide. However, it turns out, the share of CO2 in the atmosphere kept growing, but just a bit more slowly, as global warming can be weakened only with sustained and ambitious climate action.
8. EU to charge importers to prevent carbon leakage
The EU intends to introduce a carbon border adjustment mechanism within the European Green Deal. Effectively a CO2 tax, it could be applied for imported and domestic goods or as an extension of the EU Emissions Trading System to shipments from abroad. Some of the Western Balkan countries could be particularly affected, given their dependence on coal for electricity production.
The European Council endorsed the initiative earlier this month as part of the seven-year budget plan and passed the propositions to the European Parliament.
9. Here’s which air pollutants are the deadliest
Which particles cause air pollution? Who emits them? How does polluted air affect human health? Balkan Green Energy News published a series of articles demystifying air pollution and providing relevant information on the issue, with a contribution by Professor Aleksandar Jovović of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Belgrade.
10. Bulgaria plans to maintain coal-fired plants at least until 2050
In its draft Sustainable Energy Development Strategy until 2030 with a 2050 horizon, Bulgaria doesn’t envisage the shutdown of its coal power plants. The government said efforts would be made in green energy, innovation, energy efficiency, nuclear sources and gas to ensure energy security.
Here are some of the news and analysis that also captured a lot of attention of our readers in 2020: