Previously 12 months, Western Balkan governments have introduced a collection of recent fuel pipelines, terminals and energy vegetation, supposedly to steer the area away from Russia.
These plans — a lot of that are receiving monetary and political help from the EU and US — if carried out, will hamper the area’s transition to renewables, whereas aggravating financial and safety dangers, together with these involving Russia.
Western Balkan governments have not realized a lot from the final 12 months during which the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels imports, primarily fuel, turned a significant supply of instability, with world repercussions. However they don’t seem to be the one ones.
Whereas it has but to be seen how profitable the EU is in weaning itself off Russian fuel, its leaders are exporting its errors to a area that in 2021 consumed solely 4 % as a lot fuel as Germany and isn’t almost as dependent because the EU on it.
EU Fee president Ursula von der Leyen, power commissioner Kadri Simson and enlargement commissioner Olivér Várhelyi often meet with the Azerbaijan regime to advertise elevated fuel provides to the EU and Western Balkans.
And the European Funding Financial institution and European Financial institution for Reconstruction and Growth look set to finance the Greece-North Macedonia fuel interconnector, which — regardless of claims of diversification — would really enormously increase North Macedonia’s fuel imports.
The Western Balkans’ fuel consumption is under 4 billion cubic metres per 12 months, largely associated to heating and trade, with Serbia making up round 60 % of it, whereas a big a part of the area — Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo — is presently not even linked to the worldwide fuel community.
In accordance with new analysis by International Vitality Monitor and Bankwatch, the introduced fuel initiatives are price greater than €3.5bn, and embrace the area’s first two LNG import terminals in Montenegro and Albania, and a fleet of recent gas-fired energy vegetation that might dramatically enhance the area’s dependency on fuel for electrical energy.
Gasoline infrastructure would generally should be constructed from scratch, which might be expensive and take years, thus locking within the area for many years to return. This diverts sources from investing in power effectivity and sustainable renewables.
Photo voltaic and wind lagging
The area’s lagging photo voltaic and wind growth to date reveals that it isn’t practical to anticipate that the international locations will make one other transition from fuel in direction of renewables by 2050. The depleted budgets of those international locations and the shortage of regulatory and institutional capability will not enable it.
New fuel demand will enhance the Western Balkans’ publicity to risky fuel costs. Given the extent of power poverty and the political sensitivity of excessive utility payments within the area, customers is not going to be keen or in a position to take up excessive costs for fuel. This will properly result in stranded belongings.
However even when fuel is used, it’s seemingly that governments must subsidise it during times of excessive costs, placing further pressure on the international locations’ restricted public budgets. They might even flip in direction of Russia, as Russia is ready and keen, if it serves its geopolitical pursuits, to supply cheaper fuel than Azerbaijan or LNG imports.
This all occurs at a time when it’s clear that there’s merely no house for brand new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Join EUobserver’s each day publication
All of the tales we publish, despatched at 7.30 AM.
By signing up, you conform to our Phrases of Use and Privateness Coverage.
The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change (IPCC) report reiterates that there isn’t a room for brand new fossil gasoline infrastructure globally, because the projected CO2 emissions from present infrastructure, with out further abatement, would take us past 1.5 C temperature enhance by the tip of the century.
In accordance with the IPCC, “speedy and deep and, generally, instant greenhouse fuel emissions reductions in all sectors this decade” are wanted with a purpose to restrict warming to 1.5°C. Gasoline buildout within the Western Balkans isn’t suitable with this objective, nor with the international locations’ commitments to succeed in web zero by 2050 as a part of their EU accession course of.
A number of of the proposed pipelines are accompanied by unsupported claims that they will provide renewable hydrogen sooner or later, with out offering any proof on potential sources or financial feasibility. The effectivity advantages of direct electrification in heating — reasonably than hydrogen use — and the low chance that a lot renewable hydrogen shall be obtainable within the coming a long time, render this declare unconvincing.
As a substitute of funding the creation of largely new fuel demand within the area, the EU and US could be higher off doubling down on the Western Balkans’ power transition.
The easiest way to realize power safety within the area, that means the uninterrupted availability of power sources at an reasonably priced worth, whereas protecting Russia away from the area, isn’t Azeri fuel, nor LNG or every other fuel, it’s an energy-efficient economic system primarily based on sustainable types of renewable power and the electrification of the heating and transport sectors.