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Renewables to dominate the scene in CEE, says IRENA

By 2030, the economies of Central and South-Eastern Europe could cover 34 per cent of their rising energy demand cost-effectively with renewables, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

“Central and South-Eastern Europe has tremendous potential for renewable energy”, said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Renewables can reduce the region’s energy bill to the benefit of citizens and industry while improving energy security, air quality and aligning the region with long-term decarbonisation goals of the Paris Agreement. Renewables also provide countries with a cost-effective way out of fossil fuels and towards a modern, resilient and sustainable energy future.”

Especially in the past four years, the cost of renewable energy sources has decreased significantly. RES have continued to expand (around 70-72 per cent) more than fossil fuels.

“It is a clear trend that renewables are dominating the scene,” said Ricardo Gorini, Senior Programme Officer of the Renewables roadmaps at IRENA, during the online launch of the report entitled Renewable Energy Prospects for Central and South-Eastern Europe Energy Connectivity (CESEC).

“The pandemic is reinforcing the drivers that energy transformation can deliver, not only regarding the emission reduction but also for air quality and job creation,” he continued. “For this region, in particular, it is about energy security and the decarbonisation process.”

Currently, the power sector accounts for around 20 per cent of the energy consumption in Central and South-Eastern Europe, while the remaining 80 per cent is occupied by heating and transport. According to current estimates, the energy demand by 2030 will slightly increase of only 5 per cent while the demand for the energy community parties will be much stronger (26 per cent more compared to 2015). At the same time, it is expected a 10 per cent reduction in fossil fuels consumption and a 14 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy sources will slowly grow from 16 per cent in 2015 to 24 per cent in 2030.

IRENA’s Renewable Energy Roadmap (REmap) analysis provides a better alternative to the above-mentioned scenario.

The share of renewables in the gross final energy consumption could reach a 56 per cent in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the highest prediction), followed by Austria (55 per cent) and Albania (48 per cent). The countries that are expected to develop their share of RES the least are Slovakia (23 per cent), Ukraine (24 per cent), Cyprus (26 per cent) and Hungary (27 per cent).

Share of renewables in gross final energy consumption by CESEC member.
Source: IRENA

Luis Janeiro, Programme Officer of the Renewable Energy Roadmaps at IRENA described three pillars on which these States can base their energy transition. The first one is the deployment of renewable power generation capacity. Indeed, there is immense potential in these countries when it comes to RES and more than 1,300 gigawatts (GW) of solar, wind, bio and hydro installed capacity are expected to bu built by 2030.

The second pillar concerns the electrification of heat and transport services which could become more efficient and use 3-4 times less energy.

“Additionally, this pillar leads to the elimination of local air pollution,” said Mr Janeiro. “Which is very important for cities especially for CEE cities that are among the most polluted in Europe.”

However, electrification cannot reach everywhere and there are sectors (like heavy transport) where we need bioenergy. Thus the third pillar: scale-up sustainable bioenergy use. Bioenergy is already an important carrier in CEE but it could be further expanded.

Other than improving the regional energy security, renewables can help these countries to better align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Remap scenario sees an 18 per cent natural gas demand reduction (comparable to today’s total primary demand for natural gas in Ukraine). Furthermore, a 14 per cent oil demand reduction (comparable to today’s total oil consumption of Greece and Croatia combined) and a 21 per cent COW emissions reduction (comparable to today’s total emissions of Romania and Bulgaria combined).

However, IRENA underlines the need for further investments.

“This scenario will happen anyway and it will not depend on the technologies chosen,” pointed out Mr Janeiro. “It is an opportunity to modernise the energy sector. The region will need 78 billion euros more until 2030. In annual terms, it means 0.16-0.21 per cent of the GDP of the region.”

This scenario does not only bring cost-savings solutions. But also benefits to societies, improved security of supply, more modern and resilient energy systems and the alignment with the Paris Agreement’s goals.

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