Ukraine crisis will not derail Balkan decarbonisation – official
Date: March 4th 2022
Author: Peter Palčec
Since the Western Balkans does not rely heavily on gas, there is no significant risk that the Ukrainian crisis will derail its energy transition, the director of the Energy Community Secretariat told Energetika.NET on Friday.Energy Community director Artur Lorkowski said that there is no need to increase coal power production to compensate for a lack of imported energy, as North Macedonia is the only country in the Western Balkans importing coal.
“But to say that nothing has changed would be a great understatement and we certainly need to take the situation very seriously, also because [the crisis in Ukraine] came at a time of already tight global energy markets,” Lorkowski warned.
In his opinion, the Ukrainian crisis and other recent events have shown that the energy transition in Europe and the Western Balkans needs to be accelerated and he believes that now the EU is more determined than ever that its Green Deal should succeed.
“The EU has made it clear that its response will be to ramp up efforts to decrease reliance on fossil fuels by maximizing the uptake of renewables and accelerating cross-border energy infrastructure and supply diversification. Under their membership of the Energy Community and as aspiring EU member states, the Western Balkan Parties have committed to follow the EU in its decarbonisation pathway,” added Lorkowski.
The current situation does not change the fact that the financial viability of coal-fired power plants is questionable, according to Lorkowski. He also noted that the public’s acceptance of coal in the Western Balkans is decreasing as in many cases coal plants are failing to meet the required environmental criteria.
Lorkowski also believes Western Balkan governments will now be even more determined to remain on course, because last week the European Commission announced a major financial package, worth EUR 127m, specifically aimed at clean energy projects that support the energy transition in the Western Balkans.
“While the Russian invasion of Ukraine requires the strongest response, the climate crisis is not going to go away. Diverting public subsidies away from highly polluting and inefficient coal power plants would free up financing to fight the climate crisis as well as help societies adapt to climate change,” he added.
However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing energy crisis in Europe may still delay the decarbonisation plans of Balkan countries that rely heavily on coal to produce electricity, experts told Montel this week.
Meanwhile, during a BBC radio interview on Thursday, the EU’s Green Deal chief and European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said countries planning to burn coal as an alternative to Russian gas would be able to do so if they continued to follow the EU's climate goals.