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Supporting Serbia to develop its renewable energy sustainably

Photo credit: UNDP Serbia

Capitalizing on countries’ renewable energy potential requires bringing together different actors and interests in order to overcome barriers and identify priority actions.

Responding to this need, “New Possibilities for Developing Renewable Energy Sustainably in Serbia” was the focus of the 6th UNECE Hard Talk, held in Belgrade on 21-22 March. This offered a first-of-its-kind dialogue in the country, built around a practical ‘problem/solution’ discussion format to help achieve a common view on the actions needed to improve the investment climate in renewable energy and to develop renewable energy sustainably.

The multi-stakeholder exchange brought together more than 130 representatives of policy and decision-makers, project developers, investors, technology providers and NGOs as well as international donors and financial institutions. In addition to the energy sector, representatives from other natural resource management fields and environment protection were also among the participants.

Miloš Banjac, Assistant Minister of Mining and Energy, confirmed that Serbia envisages to have 700 MW in renewable energy capacities by the end of 2020. Of the total, 500 MW is expected to be wind energy and the rest other renewable sources leading to a 10% increase of the overall capacity for electricity production.

The discussion touched key obstacles to substantially increasing the uptake of renewable energy, namely lack of support mechanisms, complex permitting procedures, political resistance, lack of awareness among consumers about renewable energy sources, grid access, as well as financial risks.

The exchanges, which will lead to a series of practical recommendations for policy makers, pointed to the need for the establishment of a dedicated Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Agency, the application of the existing legal framework and commitments on renewable energy, and continued support for multi-stakeholder dialogue. The participants recognized the need to increase renewable energy sources and develop sustainable projects that also include environmental considerations. The importance and value of reinforcing cross-sectoral planning and policies with an inter-sectoral or ‘nexus’ approach was highlighted, taking into account risks to investors, society and the environment.

As one example, the potential for biomass in Serbia has been assessed in projects, but its wind and solar potential is not yet known to the same degree. In response, stakeholders identified existing technical solutions to address some issues around developing small hydropower: equipping water management structures in place with hydro generation capacity and integrating solar power generation. UNECE underlined the necessity of transboundary cooperation in future development on shared rivers. 

Concrete opportunities for positive synergies and benefits, such as those between hydropower operation and flood protection, and using renewable energy to power rural development and sustainable tourism, were illustrated by a nexus assessment of the Drina River Basin under the Water Convention, serviced by UNECE, published in 2017. The Drina Basin was also in focus in a side meeting to the Hard Talk, organized to get stakeholder feedback to shape a planned analysis to explore futures of renewable energy potential and investments. The analysis is to be carried out with funding of the Austrian Development Agency.

The Hard Talk was organized by UNECE in cooperation with the Ministry of Mining and Energy of Serbia and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The multi-stakeholder dialogue was supported by the Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection of Italy, as part of a broader set of actions implemented by UNECE including sedimentation (water quality), flow regulation and monitoring. The Hard Talk was organized back-to-back with the final conference of a UNDP/Global Environment Facility project “Reducing Barriers to Accelerate the Development of Biomass Markets in Serbia”.

For more information on the UNECE Renewable Energy Hard Talks, please visit: https://www.unece.org/energywelcome/areas-of-work/renewable-energy/unece-hard-talks.html

Information about the Water-food-energy-ecosystem nexus approach applied under the Water Convention can be found at: http://www.unece.org/env/water/nexus.html