BGF part of the discussion on ‘Energy in the Western Balkans – between development and geopolitics’

30 April 2021

The Executive Director of Balkan Green Foundation, Visar Azemi, was part of the panel ‘Energy in the Western Balkans – between development and geopolitics’, organized by College of Europe. The aim of the panel discussion was to encourage discussion among representatives from civil society and academia on the current situation and developments within the energy sector in the Western Balkans which are vital for long-term sustainability.

The panel aimed to provide in-depth insights to participants, specifically to the students of the College of Europe, Natolin Campus, regarding the regional energy system and main challenges that the countries of the WB encounter, especially in relation to their path towards European Union integration. Throughout the discussion, special emphasis was given to the existing trends that are instituting irreversible impediments in the way towards energy transition.

In his remark, the Executive Director of BGF, Visar Azemi underlined the gravity of the existing state in the countries of the Western Balkans, the deteriorating infrastructure and old coal mentality which are at the center of the regional energy landscape, and the renewable energy sources which are still not exploited to their ample comparative advantage potential. According to Azemi, the WB region needs to promote the widespread and efficient use of renewable energy sources and integrate and harmonize their energy markets between themselves and with EU neighboring countries. Furthermore, Azemi added there are indeed numerous barriers hampering the progress of implementing a connectivity agenda, such as lack of investments, geopolitical instability, etc. However, he stated that it is crucial to establish an integrated energy infrastructure that would contribute for countries to increase cross-border cooperation, develop regional projects and lower their carbon economy.

Among other projects that BGF is currently implementing that focus on the developments within the local and regional energy sectors, emphasis was provided to the Balkan Energy Prospect, a platform created and developed by BGF and its regional partners depicting the energy structure of each of the WB6 countries. ‘In order to accelerate the energy transition, it is crucial to grasp evidence-based analysis upon the current energy sector. The Balkan Energy Prospect has the potential to serve as a resourceful asset to relevant institutions, decision-makers and other relevant stakeholders within and outside WB region in defining actions plans as well as maximizing the impact of available resources. Through the visual representation of data, the platform denotes that efficient electricity access and connection of strategies within the WB region will drive the cooperation process and contribute regionally towards the advancement of their energy systems, guided by the shared commitments, obligations, and targets of the Energy Community Treaty,’ added Azemi.

The panel discussion was followed with remarks from Alexandar Kovačević, Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, pointed that almost all WB countries lead a fragmented energy market burdened by a heavy reliance on coal for energy generation, have energy-intensive economy, political instability, unreliable power transmission system, and low level of gas reserves. He added that WB countries should focus on developing regional initiatives to move away from unsustainable practices and lead towards a just transition and more diversified market.

The discussion ended on a note that the countries of the WB need to develop clear and joint strategies, focusing on renewable sources of energy, decarbonisation, combined with increased internal and external regional cooperation. Moreover, as contracting parties to the Energy Community Treaty, the Western Balkan countries should remain attentive to their obligations in adopting the EU’s energy acquis and following the sector’s best practices in policy development and implementation of EU energy guidelines and standards.