Arijeta Pajaziti Qerimi, Executive Director of the Association of Women in Energy Sector of Kosovo (AWESK) and member of the Women in Energy Association speaks about the transforming energy sector of her country and the importance of unlocking the vital and dynamic force of women to spark this change.
What are the big challenges and opportunities that you see ahead in the energy sector of Kosovo? What are the defining objectives of the country’s energy strategy?
Kosovo depends almost exclusively on two ageing lignite plants for its electricity. The big challenges and opportunities for Kosovo’s electricity system are balancing electricity production from lignite and renewable energy sources. The main challenge for conversion from the transition fuels to the RES is the less costly investment in the former industry. Coal is the most viable option for Kosovo’s security of supply but also the most difficult to finance, for environmental reasons. At the same time, there are attempts to develop renewable energy projects, which is difficult in a small country like Kosovo where the renewable potential is limited.
Kosovo is not connected to any natural gas system. A gas interconnector with North Macedonia would be a cost-efficient option for the import of gas, which could contribute to replacing lignite in power generation, as would market coupling with neighbouring countries unbundled in a manner compliant with the Energy Community rules. The main goal of the newest energy strategy of Kosovo (KES2) is obtaining sustainability in energy and observing environmental protection objectives.
There are five strategic objectives set out in KES2, namely:
- Sustainability in Energy Sector
- Regional Market Integration
- Revitalization of Kosovo A and B, and construction of the new thermal power plan
- Natural Gas operating system
- Promotion of RES, Measures of Energy Efficiency, and Environmental Protections
How did the pandemic affect the implementation of these objectives?
The on-going situation due to COVID-19 has changed the lifestyle globally as people are mostly staying home and working from home if possible. Hence, there is a significant increase in residential load demand while there is a substantial decrease in commercial and industrial loads.
This situation creates new challenges in the technical and financial activities of the power sector and all objectives that were set couldn’t be implemented.
The legal framework for environmental assessments remains not fully compliant due to the COVID-19 situation. The necessary amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Law complying with the provisions of Directive 2014/52/EU, in particular, provisions related to up-date list of Annex I and Annex II projects, quality control of EIA report, type of decisions and their content (new Article 8a), legally binding timeframes, penalties and conflict of interest, were postponed to 2021. With regard to the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, a revision of the existing legislation is underway.
For the third consecutive year, there was no progress towards the opening of the retail market for medium voltage customers. Despite the deadline for 35 kV customers to choose their supplier on the free market until 1 April 2020, they continue to be supplied by the universal supplier at regulated prices. In July 2020, the regulator adopted a decision extending the obligation imposed on the supply company KESCO to perform universal supply until 31 March 2021. The extension was justified by reference to the Covid-19 crisis.
Women could be key drivers of innovative and inclusive solutions. What role women can play in the ongoing energy transition?
In a sector historically led by heavy engineering, it’s not surprising that energy companies were traditionally male-dominated, but history is not a valid justification for gender imbalance. All available resources are needed to make the major systemic and technological changes essential for Kosovo to transition to a low carbon energy system, and to make the industry fit to flourish in the future smart energy market. Women can generate a vital dynamic force to spark change in the energy sector. It shows how women add value at all levels and in all sectors of the energy industry, making sure that the market is transformed through innovation, resetting the business culture and insert fresh approaches. We need to attract more female talent into the sector and increase the pipeline of female leaders.
Historically the energy sector is one of the least gender-diverse sectors. How do you see the role of the Women in Energy Association in closing this gender gap?
We at WONY and AWESK are working with women and for women. Our association stands for creating access as well as new opportunities for the advancement of women in the energy sector.
We have identified a number of ambitious objectives for AWESK to achieve. We want to improve career opportunities for women in the sector through training and networking; to increase wellbeing and quality of life by being more aware of energy efficiency and environment protection; and for women and girls to have better chances of employment by bridging the gap between energy and education.
At the same time, AWESK is working to make institutions able to identify concrete and realistic actions that will empower women in energy for value and professional development.
What else should be done to make the energy sector a more “popular” choice among young women who are at the beginning of their career?
The approach we have embraced so far is two-fold. AWESK has identified and has been working to strengthen the position of its members, who are women in the energy sector. Meanwhile, the association has been reaching out to girls across the country to discuss the energy sector as a career opportunity. Last year we implemented a project “Support and orientation of young girls for orientation in STEM areas” by organising information sessions and presentations with role-models women working in the sector in five cities of Kosovo.