North Macedonia’s government has approved the Energy Development Strategy until 2040 which makes it the first country in the Western Balkans to consider a coal phaseout before 2030, Bankwatch said in a press release.
Two of the strategy’s scenarios entail a coal exit by 2025, with the third delaying the closure of the Bitola lignite power plant until 2040. A final decision on which pathway to take will be made later in the year, Bankwatch said.
Two of the strategy’s scenarios entail a coal exit by 2025, and third by 2040
Lignite has been responsible for half of the country’s electricity generation in recent years, contributing to the Western Balkans’ chronic air pollution problems. The energy strategy now plans to significantly ramp up solar and wind power.
A total of 120 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is planned to be installed in the defunct coal pit Oslomej, and the adjacent and obsolete power plant is set to be closed soon.
The contry is also the first in the region to comply with the rules of national energy and climate plans (NECPs)
The solar plant’s operators plan to use the same infrastructure and employees as the power plant, Bankwatch said.
North Macedonia’s Energy Development Strategy until 2040 is also the first to comply with the rules of national energy and climate plans (NECPs) in the Energy Community and in line with the five dimensions of the European energy union.
All three scenarios include the introduction of the EU’s emission trading system, but the year of establishment is different, as is the price of CO2.
Neighbors need to pay close attention
Civil society organizations (CSOs) welcomed the adoption of the strategy as a decisive first step towards sustainable decarbonization.
Kathrin Gutmann, campaign director for Europe Beyond Coal, said the North Macedonian government clearly understands that the end of coal is looming and has taken the initiative to protect the health of its people, its economy and the climate.
“North Macedonia’s Balkan neighbors need to pay close attention, as this is the future of Europe: a rapid coal phaseout,” she added.
Nevena Smilevska, programme coordinator for climate at Eko-svest, said the government took a bold step by giving CSOs the opportunity to be included from the early stages of the preparation of the strategy.
It is crucial that CSOs now work with local communities to plan for the just transition of the Oslomej and Bitola coal regions, to make sure no one is left behind, Smilevska said.