With the Russian attack on Ukraine in February, the energy crisis took on unprecedented proportions and took over from the coronavirus pandemic as the number one topic this year. It has captured the attention of everyone, from major international forums to households and businesses in Europe and beyond. Balkan Green Energy News readers were mainly interested in energy security and prices as well as the temporary return to fossil fuels, as it is now called by officials of the European Union and member states.
The effects of the severe energy crisis and the resulting economic downturn in 2022 have also worsened the climate crisis. Furthermore, they highlighted the unsustainable rate of resource use across the planet and the resulting pollution and destruction.
The dilemma becomes more complex. Can we obtain the vast amount of raw materials needed for the green transition without irreversibly pushing nature and the environment into an abyss, which is what we were trying to avoid through climate action in the first place?
As for interest in topics specific to South East Europe, the focus was on energy legislation and new political appointments, the debate on the pros and cons of nuclear energy and, notably in Serbia, controversies over mining projects – notably the search for lithium. In 2021, it was the hottest topic.
Don’t forget to check out the most popular articles of 2022 on our Serbian language page!
1. Coal is making a comeback in a context of energy crisis
In Germany, a wind farm is being dismantled to expand the Garzweiler lignite mine. Nonetheless, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has announced it will phase out coal by 2030, as has RWE, the company that owns the facility. Several EU member states decommission coal-fired power plants back to life and extend the closing deadlines of others.
In the United Kingdom, the authorities gave the green light for the first underground coal mining project in more than three decades.
2. Banking expert to oversee reforms of Serbian government-controlled energy companies
Serbia’s new Minister of Mines and Energy, Dubravka Đedović, headed the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) regional office for the Western Balkans from 2016 to 2021. She promised this week that the auctions for the Installation of renewable power plants of 1,400 MW in total would take place over the next three years. The government is committed to introducing professional management in public energy companies to insulate them from any political influence.
3. Robert Golob’s new movement won the Slovenian elections thanks to its green program
Robert Golob’s Freedom Movement achieved historic success in Slovenia’s general elections just three months after its founding, allowing him to become prime minister. The government immediately launched a vast campaign solar energy deployment initiative. Golob means pigeon or dove in Slovenia, but the new leader is a hawk on decarbonization and energy security.
The economic program of the list also relies on digitalization while renewable energies and Nuclear power are considered energy pillars.
It is evident that environmental protection and the energy transition are becoming more and more important for voters in Southeast Europe, so that even traditional parties are starting to focus on them.
4. Electricity and gas prices have reached unprecedented highs
Market prices for electricity and gas in Europe have risen to dizzying heights even before the start of the war in Ukraine in February, after which they went parabolic, until reaching a peak in August. The companies were close manufacturing facilities because they couldn’t pay their energy bills.
Combined with energy-saving measures, it contributed to falling demand, but high temperatures in October, November and December eased most of the burden. Gas prices are now at levels before the Russian attack on Ukraine.
5. Greece has started construction of the LNG terminal in Alexandroupolis
Construction work on the Alexandroupolis liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Greece began in May. The facility, which is expected to become operational in December 2023, will also be used for exports to other Balkan countries.
6. China sets the standards for energy transition
The Beijing government has pledged to set global standards for renewable energy, batteries and other storage solutions, as it works on a strategy to reduce coal use and reach zero net emissions by 2060. A year ago, the State Grid Corp. (SGCC) has launched the first two units of 12 at its Fengning pumped-storage hydropower plant, which is set to become the world’s largest. By the end of 2022, a total of seven units were put into service.
Largest in the world vanadium flow battery system was recently put into service in the most populous country. Chaozhou City, Guangdong, has unveiled a 43.3 GW offshore wind power plant project in the Taiwan Strait.
Last month, the world’s first commercial floating solar power plant on the sea was commissioned off the coast of Haiyang, eastern China. It is integrated with an offshore wind turbine, which also makes it the first hybrid power plant of its type.
One of the biggest achievements of the year was announced last week: Baihetan, the world’s second largest hydroelectric plant and power plant is now operating at full capacity.
7. EU mining madness endangers the Balkans
The European Commission wants reliable supply chains for the materials the EU needs to accelerate the shift to renewable energy sources and a green economy. In contrast, the extraction of lithium, copper and other necessary raw materials devastates nature and endangers local communities. The Western Balkans are among the hardest hit regions.
In August, there were 20 lithium projects in Europe, including eight in Serbia! The most controversial and advanced was launched by Rio Tinto and, although the government officially stopped it, the company remains active. Germany would lobby within the European Union to support lithium research.
Many mining projects are expanding in the country and dozens of exploration permits have recently been issued.
8. North Macedonia’s ESM built the first photovoltaic plant on a former coal mine in the Western Balkans
Power utilities in the Western Balkans face a series of major challenges. The energy transition requires gradually abandoning coal and moving towards cleaner energy. Some of them face outdated thermal power plants and coal shortages.
Elektrani na Severna Makedonija (ESM) from North Macedonia stands out for its strategic transformation. It is the region’s first electric utility to build a solar power plant on a former coal mine, and more such projects are underway. THE article East part of our series called Champions of the energy transition in the Western Balkans.
9. Deadlines for introducing a carbon pricing mechanism are tightening
Under an agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament, free EU carbon allowances for industry will be phased out by the end of 2033. The Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism or CBAM, a carbon tax on borders for importers, will be gradually put in place. at the same time, to avoid protectionism.
The EU has decided to extend the planned period for the gradual introduction of the new levy, which represents a relief for exporters in the Western Balkans. However, governments in the region must introduce carbon pricing mechanisms as soon as possible to avoid paying the carbon tax and retain the profits, which must be invested in decarbonization.
10. Here’s what businesses need to know about solar power plants for self-consumption
How businesses can secure a stable, inexpensive electricity supply and decarbonize their operations was the key topic discussed during the third panel of the conference. Serbian companies in the evolving electricity marketorganized by Green energy news from the Balkans. Participants discussed options for companies to become commercial prosumers and generate their own electricity, investment models in renewable energy, as well as billing systems and grid connection procedures.
Here are some of the news and analyzes that also caught the attention of our readers in 2020:
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