Prime Minister Edi Rama said the two big solar power plants that Voltalia is about to build would take Albania to the forefront of the Balkans in the sector and expressed the ambition the country would become a regional champion in renewable energy production by 2030. We analyzed how the others are doing in the same field to see if his projections are feasible.
Albania was “suffocating under the waste and pollution” eight years ago, but now it is “much different,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a speech to mark the end of his second term. “However, for us to become unrivaled regional champions by end of this decade, the fight to protect the environment should intensify, as the primitive landfills and the troubling water and air pollution are just the most visible part of the environmental problems,” he stated.
The investment program launched during the second term is “a cause for enthusiasm” to see the country become “the regional champion of renewable production by 2030,” in his words. The government paved the way for Voltalia to build solar power plants Karavasta and Spitalle, “the largest in the region,” as it won in two auctions, Rama added and stressed it would take “Albania to the forefront of the Balkan for solar energy generation.”
Rama: The fight to protect the environment should intensify, as the primitive landfills and the troubling water and air pollution are just the most visible part of the environmental problems
The country is set to become a net energy exporter by the end of the decade, the prime minister claimed. Hydropower plant Skavica is “no longer a half-century old dream in a drawer” thanks to the cooperation with the United States government, to which the revival of the Vlora power plant project can also be attributed, he underscored.
The 98 MW oil-fired facility was built in 2011 but it never entered regular operation due to malfunction. With the agreement signed with ExxonMobil, the “high-cost symbol of failure” will be switched to liquefied natural gas, Rama said.
The prime minister praised the results in preventing electricity theft, investments in the power distribution network and the construction of the interconnection line with Kosovo*, which was finished in 2016.
Greece, Turkey are among world’s strongest solar power markets
Albania showed substantial progress with the auctions for Karavasta (140 MW) and Spitalle (100 MW), and there are several private utility-scale solar plant projects without subsidies. It recently got its first floating photovoltaic unit. However, the country’s solar power capacity is still weak, just like in the rest of the Western Balkans.
As for neighboring Greece, state-owned Public Power Corp. (PPC) has the ambition to replace all its coal-fired power plants within just a few years, mostly with photovoltaics. Its subsidiary is already building a 200 MW system near Kozani. The company is making deals with numerous domestic and foreign partners on joint projects and the private sector has dozens of gigawatts of solar in the pipeline.
Greece is building a 200 MW system near Kozani and a third of a 1 GW project in Turkey is already online
The government has a major program to make twenty or so isolated islands independent in terms of energy.
Ernst and Young recently placed Turkey 25th and Greece 26th in its Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index. They are the only Balkan countries in the top 40.
In Turkey, the first phase, 370 MW, of the state-backed 1 GW solar power plant in Karapınar is already finished. The government plans to auction 2 GW of solar power capacity by the end of the year. Domestic company Aydem Renewables will use part of the proceeds from a green bond sale worth USD 750 million to add solar power units to its hydro and wind assets.
Similar to Greece, Romania is racing to deploy solar and wind power technology so that its coal power plants can be shut down to avoid massive carbon emission costs, which are also burdening Bulgaria.
North Macedonia’s Zaev hinted at trilateral plan for 700 MW unit
The Western Balkans, a group of countries aspiring to join the European Union, are facing a carbon border tax for exports of goods and electricity to the 27-member bloc. It means they should also replace coal-fired power plants, with the exception of Albania, as it doesn’t have such facilities.
North Macedonia is the most ambitious as it aims for a coal phaseout by 2027. It is preparing an auction for premiums for photovoltaic plants with a total installed capacity of 80 MW. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev claimed earlier this month that the government would invest in a 700 MW solar power plant together with Serbia and Albania. It would currently be the biggest in Europe.
Western Balkans are forced to replace coal-fired power plants with renewables
North Macedonia said in its investment plan through 2027 that it expects EUR 3.1 billion of public spending, private capital expenditure and grants in the energy sector. State-owned power utility Elektrani na Severna Makedonija or ESM is already developing solar power plant projects to replace coal plants. The country intends to stop using the harmful fossil fuel by 2027.
ESM was recently tasked with building a photovoltaic system of up to 350 MW near Štip.
UGT Renewables looking to install photovoltaic plants of 1 GW in total in Serbia
President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić said in early August that the government started negotiations with Chicago-based UGT Renewables on the construction of ten or so solar power plants with a combined capacity of 1 GW. EPS has its own solar power endeavors in the pipeline at coal power plant ash dumps – one with the capacity of 97.2 MW and three of almost 10 MW each.
Fintel Energija and MK Group are working in Serbia on an agrisolar endeavor of 660 MW
UGT Renewables said it would pick locations with land of low economic value. Of note, municipalities were recently authorized to lease low-grade state-owned agricultural land for renewable energy power plants.
There was only 29 MW in solar power systems installed in Serbia at the end of last year, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. In April the government passed the highly praised Law on the Use of Renewable Energy Sources, which may have opened the way for a rapid expansion in the sector.
As for private investments, last month Fintel Energija and MK Group announced their Agrosolar Kula project of 660 MW.
Montenegro has project of up to 300 MW
Kosovo’s* coal plant operator KEK has revealed a plan to install a solar power plant of 100 MW. USAID estimates the overall potential at 880 MW. In the private sphere, Dukagjini Solar has the biggest project under development – two units with a combined peak capacity of 250 MW.
Montenegro recently launched public calls for subsidies and cheap loans for photovoltaics for households and firms. The Briska gora and Velje brdo projects have 50 MW each planned for the first phase. The procedures have suffered delays. They could reach 262 MW and 300 MW, respectively.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a regional government in the west intends to award a concession for a 90 MW solar power plant. ERS, one of the three state-owned power utilities, is working on setting up a 73 MW unit in Trebinje.