The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) plans to increase financing for large-scale solar and wind projects in the Western Balkans in the next five years, as it sees strong potential in the sector, Zsuzsanna Hargitai, EBRD regional head for Western Balkans, told SeeNews in a recent interview.
– We see a strong potential coming from wind and solar resources pretty much in all the Western Balkans countries and although it's difficult to estimate the amount of EBRD financing for the next five years, we can certainly expect a considerable rise in EBRD financing volumes for large scale solar and wind projects – Hargitai said.
In December, the EBRD made an urgent call to the Western Balkan countries to proceed immediately to drastically reduce the production and use of lignite coal by investing in renewables. Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia still rely on large penetrations of lignite coal generation capacity, basing 65% to 75% of their net generation on the dirty fuel.
The EU average, in comparison, is said to be around 10%.
– Our approach is two-folded: on one side the EBRD provides financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects (30% of EBRD financing in the Western Balkans region since 2006 were dedicated to green economy), and on the other side we support governments to develop a regulatory framework which will stimulate development of green economy – Hargitai said.
The EBRD is managing the Regional Energy Efficiency Programme (REEP), launched in 2009 to provide technical assistance, policy dialogue, incentives and financing to transform and promote energy efficiency investments in the region, Hargitai said.
– Since 2013, REEP has supported 38 policy assignments transposing energy efficiency directives in the Western Balkans context with the aim to enable energy efficiency investments. Under REEP alone the EBRD financed 88.6 million euro directly and via local financial institutions, reducing 112,197 tonnes of CO2 per year.
The EBRD launched its Green Cities initiative aimed at stimulating cities in the region to address the most pressing environmental challenges through the development of strategic documents and support for the implementation of priority investments. Launched in 2016, with just 250 million euro of funding that was expected to last five years, EBRD Green Cities proved so popular that it was replenished within just two years from the start. In October 2018, the EBRD approved a further 700 million euro of funding to cities with strong needs and strong commitment to improve environmental performance.
– Belgrade is currently also developing an action plan expected to be finalised in the first half of 2020. Other cities in the region members of this green family are Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Skopje, Zenica, Pristina, Podgorica and Novi Sad as the newest member of the Green Cities family – Hargitai said.