Conference on challenges of Western Balkans's energy system

06 July 2015 - The Balkan Green Foundation (BGF) and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) led discussions at an event hosted by Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President of the European Parliament, on the potential of the countries of the Western Balkans to modernize their economies and energy systems to make them fit-for-purpose in a future sustainable and renewable economy.

The countries of the Western Balkans face tremendous challenges on their way to the EU and the transition of their energy systems into a renewable and sustainable future. Six regional journalists and energy experts gave hands-on reports on the difficulties and opportunities of their countries to phase out carbon-intensive energy infrastructure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy, fight corruption and protect nature.

Ulrike Lunacek, Vice President of European Parliament, the host of the meeting stressed that "the modernization of the energy system in the Western Balkans is an inevitable reality. Only if we choose wisely, we will amount to give citizens a better life, good health and a clean environment. Efficiency and renewables are leading the way towards a future of clean energy. Nuclear energy is not an option."

Reports showed that the region is highly dependent on the generation of electricity from coal and that corruption and mismanagement are the only indications of the industry sector. Continuing reliance on dirty coal is causing rising health costs and serious environmental degradation in the region.

Visar Azemi, Executive Director of Balkan Green Foundation, said that "the policies of the energy sector in the countries of the Western Balkans are badly oriented. The region should focus on the development of green economy, where energy is defined as a priority sector. A new economic development vision is needed, which cares for nature, conservation of biodiversity, and also reduces greenhouse gas emissions."

Further, during the conference it was also discussed that the persistence of widespread corrupt practices and lack of transparent planning energy policies are causing stagnation in the development and presentation of sustainable alternatives. Western Balkan countries need to stop this vicious cycle costing millions to their economies and to the people, and at the same time is destroying their future.

Pieter de POUS, EEB Policy Director, recalled: "A sustainable energy future that respects the environment needs transparent institutions. Western Balkan countries have an opportunity and responsibility to put their investments in renewable and stable resources, and take energy efficiency measures. The EU now will see a change in paradigm in which energy efficiency is prioritized, and it is an important practice to be followed for the Western Balkans."

The discussion ended with the joint appeal that the Western Balkan and the European Union should join forces and identify common problems in the energy sector, and thus bring lasting results in the energy sector in the region.

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