The European Union is supporting ESM, North Macedonia’s state-owned electricity company, to implement a 30 megawatts (MW) photovoltaic (PV) project consisting of 10 MW on a portion of the exhausted coal mine of thermal power plant Oslomej and 20 MW adjacent to the thermal power plant Bitola. The EU will provide a 5 million euros grant funded through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF). The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is lending 25 million euros to complement this development.
“We are seeing concrete actions in materialising the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans and in turning the Economic and Investment Plan into reality,” said Ambassador David Geer, Head of the EU Delegation to North Macedonia. “The WBIF investment grant and the EBRD Loan, supporting the transformation of Oslomej and Bitola power plants from coal-based to solar energy, represent a clear indication that the country is taking the right steps – moving to green energy while implementing a socially just transition process. This investment was long overdue, and comes at the right time for North Macedonia, ensuring clean and secure energy supplies.”
The new solar plants are an extension of the first 10 MW PV plant constructed on the exhausted coal mines in Oslomej and are evidence of ESM’s and the country’s decarbonisation pathway. Once operational, the new facilities will produce nearly 48 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity a year – enough to power 10,000 homes and replace 44,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The project will also support ESM’s efforts to rehabilitate the mine sites that are used to supply the thermal power plants with coal.
“This is a very important project for the country’s energy transition,” commented Andi Aranitasi, EBRD Head of North Macedonia. “It is a continuation of our previous work in backing the ambitious decarbonisation plans of North Macedonia by organising solar PV tenders and constructing the first-ever utility-scale solar PV plant in the country. The project will help to address the need for energy security and sustainability in a competitive and affordable manner, through investments that will create high-quality jobs and new business ecosystems, while reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The country, whose capital Skopje was recently named one of Europe’s most polluted cities, aims to source 38 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Especially during the current energy crises, this operation will be one of the first projects to simultaneously address key just transition elements by moving toward clean energy use and energy security, while also introducing retraining and reskilling programmes to safeguard livelihoods, support regional development and create new economic opportunities.