Renewable energy and energy savings are key solutions for mitigating climate change, REN21 and UNECE said. In a joint report, they warned of low investments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Data showed fossil fuels remain dominant in heating, cooling and transportation, which account for 80% of total energy consumption.
Renewable energy policy think tank REN21 and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) launched their third joint UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report. At an online presentation, the two organizations pointed out there is massive untapped potential for renewable energy development and energy efficiency improvements in the region of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The document covers 17 countries plus Kosovo*. They include all nine Energy Community Contracting Parties, of which six make up the Western Balkans.
Water bodies are shrinking, which has an impact on hydropower, on which many countries depend
“In recent months we have seen severe heatwaves in many countries and dramatic floods in others. All have and are taking a toll on the population,” UNECE’s Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova said. Waterbodies are shrinking, which has an impact on hydropower, on which many countries depend, she stressed.
Renewable energy remains a key solution for mitigating climate change but the shift is not happening fast enough, Algayerova warned. The UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report 2022 report offers an analysis of the status of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The authors highlighted the increase in awareness within municipal authorities in the Western Balkans of the link between severe air pollution and fossil fuels and of the need to remove them. The conclusion is that investments fall far short of meeting climate targets.
Only fossil fuel producers are self-sufficient in energy terms
REN21’s Executive Secretary Rana Adib said that, in the observed region, only Russia and the four Central Asian countries, which are all fossil fuel producers, are self-sufficient. Next is Belarus, with over 70%, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. They meet half of their energy needs domestically. Albania fares the worst in the Western Balkans, with only 30%.
Serbia is first in added renewable energy capacity in the Western Balkans in absolute terms from 2017 to 2021 – 0.5 GW. Montenegro is last, with just 0.1 GW.
Despite improvements in the past years, the countries in UNECE’s target region have high energy intensity, which shows there is a lot of room for energy efficiency, Adib underscored. She said subsidies for fossil fuels remain high and that tariffs for electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear plants are still artificially low
Share of renewables remained unchanged from 2014 to 2019
A major drag was registered in investments. “Most of the attention has been lying on renewable power development. The reality, and we have the same situation globally, is that we are consuming around 80% of energy for heating, cooling and transportation,” Adib stated, adding they are the sectors that need more focus for the shift.
The 18.2% share of renewables in total energy consumption includes traditional biomass
The share of renewables in total final energy has actually remained unchanged in the whole observed region from 2014 to 2019, at 18.2%. The category includes traditional biomass, which is mostly the use of wood for heating in households. Some of the most important factors are the slowdown in hydropower and the increase in motorization, according to the authors.
Energy policy, market reforms are crucial
Naida Taso, renewable energy expert from the Energy Community Secretariat, said governments need to set ambitious long-term targets, conduct power sector reforms, redirect fossil fuel subsidies to renewables and introduce carbon pricing. Other crucial solutions for boosting the deployment rate of green energy are the simplification of permitting procedures, market-based support schemes and liquid intraday and day-ahead markets, she pointed out.
With its partners including REN21, UNECE has been facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogues at national levels through UNECE Renewable Energy Hard Talk events to identify viable solutions and produce recommendations for rapid changes and meeting renewable energy targets set by participating countries.