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The Balkans – the next big thing in renewable energy

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The countries of the Balkan region, apart from Romania, which shows similar indicators to Greece, have experienced their own “green” revolution in recent years, but are still far from being considered saturated markets.

The numbers speak for themselves, as can be seen from the data presented at the recent Renewables Balkans conference held in Bucharest, and these numbers highlight the great opportunities that exist for Greek energy companies if they set the right goals, if they avoid mistakes and if they hurry. In Bulgaria, the most developed of the seven countries, installed capacity from renewable sources reached 5.2 GW last year, equal to 40% of that of Greece, which currently stands at 12GW. In Croatia, the capacity is 3.6 GW, in Serbia 3.1 GW, followed by Albania with 2.5 GW, Bosnia with 2.1 GW and in the last places, Montenegro and North Macedonia with 0.8 GW each.

Western Balkan countries are experiencing a “boom” in solar energy investment, but their grids are lagging behind. Renewables could help ease the energy crisis as countries move away from coal. However industry officials say there are concerns and distribution systems are not ready for the new energy sources. Grid expansion, energy storage and tighter regulations are just some of the ways countries are trying to combat this problem.

In North Macedonia, businessmen are investing “quite aggressively” in solar power plants, according to Economy Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi. His country, which is an energy importer, has become a regional center for renewable energy sources. As of 2021, solar parks with a capacity of 139 megawatts (MW) have been built. The country plans to produce up to 300 MW of new solar power by the end of 2023. However, transmission and distribution grids are not prepared to absorb such sudden inflows of solar energy. The other solution, although expensive, is to store electricity, which is only generated during the day. Therefore, the legislation in North Macedonia was changed to oblige investors to ensure the storage of electricity in batteries in areas where the grid is already reserved.

A comparison with Greece is enough to understand where the neighbouring countries stand and what their prospects are. Today, the installed power from renewable sources in Greece is 12 GW, and the projects to be connected to the energy system reach 16 GW, which means a total of 28 GW. That is, the power installed today in the eight countries mentioned above is equal to that of Greece plus the projects to be connected.

They are, indeed, present in the respective markets, they “scan” them, they have identified targets, and they discuss financing, but the big news about investments is missing, although the only way they have to go is expansion abroad, under the conditions the Greek market is already saturated.

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