Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski inaugurated a 10 MW solar power plant at the aging Oslomej coal complex and said North Macedonia wants to transition from an economy dominated by fossil fuels to the production of energy from the sun and wind, hydropower and gas.
The Oslomej 1 photovoltaic plant, one of the projects from the European Union’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, started its test operation. The 10 MW facility was built at a former lignite mine belonging to the old thermal power plant of the same name in the municipality of Kičevo in the western part of North Macedonia.
Both the coal complex and the solar power unit belong to state-owned electricity utility Elektrani na Severna Makedonija (ESM), which already has one wind park, Bogdanci, and plans to expand it. The company intends to close its coal and oil-fired power plants, switch them to gas or replace them with renewables.
Three more photovoltaic plants in pipeline for Oslomej
Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski said at the inauguration ceremony that the government and its partners want to conduct a transition from an economy dominated by fossil fuels to the production of energy from the sun and wind, hydroelectric plants and gas. He added the new solar power plant would have an annual output of 15 GWh to 17 GWh, equivalent to the electricity consumption of 2,800 households.
ESM is working on a new study for another solar power plant of 10 megawatts, and deals have been signed for the construction of two more photovoltaic power plants, which will completely switch the REK Oslomej complex from coal to renewable energy sources, Kovačevski stressed.
PM Kovačevski: The REK Oslomej complex will completely be switched from coal to renewables
The contracts were awarded to private partners Fortis Energy from Turkey and Solar Pro from Bulgaria. They are obligated to pay a fee equal to 18.5% and 18% of production, respectively, which translates to EUR 1.5 million per year, the prime minister said.
Kovačevski also pointed to major wind and solar power projects underway, such as the one that Akuo is developing, and said there is more than 1 GW in renewables in the pipeline with a strategic investment status. The private partner for the Čebren hydropower plant will be selected by the end of June, he added and called it the most important project for the country’s energy transition.
North Macedonia’s economy to become climate neutral by 2040
Minister of Economy Kreshnik Bekteshi said the coal phaseout and the switch to renewables would be completed in ten years and that the economy would become climate neutral by 2040. Earlier, Minister of Environment and Physical Planning Naser Nuredini said that the coal exit deadline would be pushed back to 2030 from 2027.
The government earlier indicated the coal exit deadline would be pushed back to 2030 from 2027, while Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi now says the process would be done in ten years
The European Bank for Reconstruction and development, which provided a EUR 5.9 million loan for Oslomej 1, noted that the EUR 8.7 million project includes a EUR 1.6 million grant from the Western Balkans Investment Framework.
EBRD also said it is working with ESM on investing in additional solar power plants. The lender also approved financing for an extension of the plant in Oslomej and the construction of a new plant in Bitola for a combined total capacity of 30 MW. The EU is also supporting the investment with a EUR 5.1 million investment grant.
For now there is only one other mid-sized solar power plant in the country – EVN Macedonia’s 5 MW unit near Negotino.
Of note, oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum yesterday inaugurated the biggest solar power plant in Greece and the Balkans, at 204,3 MW.