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News and Activites

  • Albania’s draft renewables law must support small producers and end incentives for hydropower

    Albania’s new draft renewables law brings welcome changes such as a target for solar water heating but is too vague on crucial points such as sustainability, small plants, heat pumps and rooftop solar. Attracting big investors is important, but are small producers being neglected? After years of providing renewables incentives only for hydropower, in 2017 Albania changed its legislation to introduce an auctions and premiums system and widen support to other technologies. It’s now updating its legislation and recently held a public consultation on a new draft law on renewable energy. The draft contains some welcome features, such as a target for solar water heaters, but leaves too many details unclear, particularly on technology choice and the role of households and small businesses in the energy transition. Time to stop supporting climate-vulnerable hydropower It’s understandable that the draft law intends to leave flexibility for adjusting the scheme but it would be appropriate already at this stage to clearly exclude hydropower from receiving renewable energy incentives.  Albania is far too dependent on climate-vulnerable hydropower, which generates almost 100 per cent of domestically produced electricity, but most years still leaves the country dependent on imports. Despite adding more than 600 MW in large hydropower plants in the last decade, average generation between 2010 and 2020 barely increased due to increasingly unpredictable rainfall.  Source: International Energy Agency For years, Albania’s support scheme only supported yet more hydropower, at huge cost. According to data from the Energy Regulatory Authority (p.123), in 2021 Albanian electricity consumers paid out more than EUR 118 million to small hydropower producers and EUR 19 million more under a power purchase agreement for the large Ashta hydropower plant. This might seem like peanuts compared to Western European incentives schemes, but it’s a massive sum for a cash-strapped country and by far the highest cost in the region. It is therefore time to redress the balance and prevent even more public money being spent on propping up climate-vulnerable hydropower while solar, wind, housing insulation and heat pumps continue to lag behind. Do small plants need to compete in auctions?  Since 2014, EU State aid guidelines for the energy and environment sectors have stipulated the need to move to a more competitive and cost-effective incentives system for renewables, based on auctions to establish the lowest possible support prices. Electricity is then sold on the market and when the price gained doesn’t reach the bidding price, the producer receives a payment from the renewable energy operator to make up the difference. Only the very smallest plants are exempt from this approach, as it’s unrealistic for them to bid competitively in auctions, so they may continue to benefit from feed-in tariff schemes where the renewable energy operator purchases all their electricity at a price fixed in advance for a set time period (12-15 years in the Western Balkans). As a signatory of the Energy Community Treaty, Albania too has to abide by these rules. However, its draft law on renewables doesn’t seem to differentiate between small and large plants. It doesn’t state whether plants under a certain capacity are exempt from participating in a competitive process.  In the EU the threshold is 1 MW according to the Climate, Energy and Environment State Aid Guidelines (CEEAG), except for those owned by small and medium enterprises. But it’s not clear whether Albania is planning to exempt plants below this threshold from participating in auctions or set up special auctions for them or what. If no special auctions are planned, it’s not clear what measures will be taken to ensure that small producers can benefit from support schemes at all. Or perhaps they are expected only to become prosumers with net billing, and not receive any price support at all? The feed-in tariff phase-out needs to be clearer In order for a premium system to work properly, a functional day-ahead electricity market is needed. Albania does not yet have this, so is taking an interim step of maintaining feed-in tariffs even for larger plants until the day-ahead market is established, but with the important difference that the price to be paid to producers will be established via auctions. The idea is that once the day-ahead market becomes functional, the power purchase agreements will be converted to Contracts for Difference and the feed-in tariff scheme will become a premium scheme. This might be acceptable for now, but the draft law doesn’t clearly differentiate between the interim scheme and the future scheme. Unlike the EU’s CEEAG, it doesn’t prohibit feed-in contracts for plants over a certain capacity, even once the day-ahead market is functional. According to paragraph 123 and footnote 70 of the CEEAG, the threshold is now 400 kW, decreasing to 250 kW by 2026, so plants larger than this should not be allowed to receive feed-in tariffs once the day-ahead market is up and running.  The approach of continuing with competitively set feed-in tariffs even for larger plants and then converting them to Contracts for Difference may be acceptable in the short term, but only if clear deadlines are set. If a functional day-ahead market is not in place in a year or two, this new scheme needs to be reviewed anyway to check on its cost and effectiveness.  There also needs to be a clear obligation to establish the feed-in tariff price via a competitive process, at least for plants above the threshold - and even then, the question remains whether plants below the threshold can get feed-in tariffs at all and if so, how? Heading the wrong way on bioenergy? The draft law obliges fuel suppliers to ensure that Albania meets a target for renewable energy in transport. However, while biofuels in transport were part of the EU’s 2020 targets, this policy has turned out to be counterproductive. Increased demand for food-based biofuels requires more agricultural land. Since most agricultural land is already being used globally, new areas have to be found, which leads to deforestation, releasing tonnes of greenhouse gases. In some cases, these emissions are so high that some biofuels lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions than the fossil fuel they replace, when taking into account the whole life cycle of the crop. This is the case for biodiesel made from vegetable oils such as rapeseed, palm oil, soy and sunflower. The EU's 2018 renewable energy Directive therefore limits crop-based biofuels to the levels used by each EU member state in 2020 — a de facto freeze. The EU will also phase out high-deforestation-risk biofuels by 2030. The EU's renewable energy Directive is currently again under revision, therefore the situation is also likely to further change. Instead of repeating the EU’s mistakes, Albania should therefore pursue electrification of transport as well as improvement of its public transport, which would help decrease demand from individual vehicles. Pursuing biofuels as an alternative to oil products for transport is not advisable at the moment. Likewise the draft law is unclear on the role of biomass. At minimum, Albania is obliged to follow the bioenergy sustainability criteria from the 2018 Renewable Energy Directive. However, these are widely criticised for not being stringent enough, so Albania should draw on its own experiences to set more effective criteria. Support for heat pumps and rooftop solar needed Given the widespread use of electricity for heating in Albania, installing efficient heat pumps would make much better use of the electricity already generated and avoid an expensive and climate-damaging gas lock-in. Combining these with rooftop solar in this extremely sunny country would help Albania leapfrog straight to a future-proof renewable energy system. Yet the draft law is unclear on the role heat pumps and rooftop solar are expected to play and whether there will be any support mechanisms for their installation. As well as the draft target for solar water heating, the law would do well to set targets for heat pumps and prosumers. The Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign aims to protect the most valuable rivers in the Balkans from building hydropower plants. The campaign is coordinated by the NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur, and is being run jointly with partner organisations from the Balkans.Pippa Gallop, Southeast Europe Energy Advisor, CEE BankwatchLira Hakani, EDEN Centre
  • Interview with Climate Activist [Ania Sauku]

    CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?  Absolutely! Well, I am a very-much-care-about-everything 20 years old, who is currently studying law and wishing to specialize on human rights with an environmental focus. I've been invloved in the civic society ever since I was 16, taking part in different networks and activities and meeting people who really inspire change and inspire me to work harder for my community. But outside of my engagements, I like to consider myself a creative soul who is always on the lookout to have some fun! TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR MAIN MOTIVATION FOR BEING INVOLVED WITH UNYA. WHEN DID YOU FIRST START WITH YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE ENVIRONMENT? WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT? At the point before I joined UNYA, I had taken part in some of their activities and was impressed by the quality and by the dynamics of the people, and after I joined it, I fell in love with the work we do and the joy we express while doing it. I realised that's how community building should feel like: doing hard work while gaining joy from the people you work with and the work that you do. I started gaining an interest on the environment early on, because I was a girl scout and we were taught the importance of nature and how dependant we were on it for our survival, but it wasn't until 2 years ago when I started acting on my interest. I think a huge role on this played the tools of advocacy I learned at UNYA and from then on, I'm still trying to turn this advocacy into more concrete climate activism. WHAT DOES THE PHRASE CLIMATE JUSTICE MEAN TO YOU? Honestly, climate justice is essential to the climate movement because it acknowledges and exposes all the systems that are intertwined that are actively causing climate change such as capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy..ect, while also making the climate movement a more people-centred one. Especially focusing on vulnerable communities who have done the least of the damage but are going to suffer the most of the consequences, leading to the danger of their own existence. As long as you live in the Planet Earth, you are affected by climate change, but it drastically differs if you live in a small island that will not be there anymore or in a small village that risks life-threatenig floods and if you live in a penthouse in NYC and take private jets for 40 minutes car rides. IF YOU COULD IMAGINE AN IDEAL COOPERATION BETWEEN THE SOCIAL AND CLIMATE MOVEMENTS, WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE? (IN THE CASE OF ALBANIA) Frankly, an ideal cooperation would be one where one movement (the climate one) is included in the other movements (the social one). The climate movement is a social movement because it was born from people's most basic desire: to live and to continue living in the future, and the social movements were born to make our life better. So these movements can co-exist with each other because social issues and climate change both affect our lives, despite one being seemingly more "for the Western part of the world" and one more tangible for us. IN THIS FIELD, OUR WORK AS ACTIVISTS IS TO PROMOTE VALUES SUCH AS EQUALITY, DIVERSITY AND NON-DISCRIMINATION. IN YOUR EXPERIENCE, DO YOU THINK THERE IS A PLACE FOR EVERYONE IN ACTIVISM? Duh! It is even more important for people from all backgrounds to join the fight, because like we said everyone is affected by climate change but we are affected in different ways. Having spaces that create the opportunity for people to share their experiences and their best practicies is central to climate justice and frankly, social movements in general. I think it is even more important to not just create this spaces but also to know where to pass the mic to people who need it the most and to constantly check yourself if you are doing the utmost to make sure everybody is heard. WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO START GETTING INVOLVED WITH THE CLIMATE MOVEMENT? It is a long road ahead. One that has started before us and hopefully not, but maybe one that will surpass us. Climate change is a global issue and sometimes it is very hard to conceptualize how wide the world is when you are stuck in your local community work, which is central and important but at the end is only one part of the chain of solutions. My advice would be that the utmost work of the climate movement is the people, so focus on getting to know as many of them and listen to their story, gain their prespective and learn from their initatives. Connecting with people and taking action in our way is the best way we can tackle this gigantic monster caused by our own greed.This interview comes as part of a series of interviews with climate campaigners and advocates in Albania, with the support of Youth and Environment Europe. 
  • Njoftim për shtyp: Letër drejtuar KE për gazin natyror në Ballkanin Perëndimor

    Njoftim për shtyp5 Prill 2022 Aktivistë i bëjnë thirrje BE-së të ndalojë mbështetjen e varësisë të Ballkanit Perëndimor ndaj gazit natyror 36 organizata të shoqërisë civile kanë dërguar sot një (1) letër të përbashkët (kliko për të lexuar letrën) drejtuar Presidentes të Komisionit Europian, Ursula von der Leyen, duke i bërë thirrje BE-së për të ndaluar promovimin e përdorimit të gazit natyror në Ballkanin Perëndimor. Në këtë moment, rajoni është shumë më pak i varur nga gazi krahasuar me BE-në, e cila po përpiqet të lirohet nga importi i gazit pas pushtimit Rus në Ukrainë. (2)Serbia, disa vende në Maqedoninë e Veriut dhe Bosnja Herzegovina përdorin gazin Rus, kryesisht për ngrohje. Shqipëria, Kosova, dhe Mali i zi nuk kane rrjet shpërndarjeje për gazin. Pavarësisht faktit që Ballkani Perëndimor është zotuar për të nxjerrë nga përdorimi karburantet fosile deri në 2050 (3), Komisioni Europian përgjatë viteve të fundit ka inkurajuar rritjen e konsumimit të gazit natyror në rajon, kryesisht përmes korridorit jugor nga Azerbajxhani (4), pavarësisht se projekti i gazit “Shah Deniz” është 20% në pronësi të Lukoil të Rusisë (5). Letra drejtuar Komisionit Europian bën thirrje për shtimin e investimeve për energji të rinovueshme të cilat janë neglizhuar në rajon, ku në vend të kësaj është duke u promovuar përdorimi i gazit natyror. Denis Žiško, organizata Qendra Aarhus nga Bosnje Herzegovina, shprehet, “Promovimi i rritjes së përdorimit të gazit natyror në Ballkanin Perëndimor në këtë faze të krizës globale klimatike është e papërgjegjshme dhe aspak e dëshirueshme. Varësia jonë e ulët ndaj gazit natyror është një plus, jo minus, ndërsa shkojmë drejt elektrifikimit të sistemit të ngrohjes dhe transportit. Infrastruktura e re e ndërtuar së fundmi do të përfundojë si aset i bllokuara ose si një bllokazhë-gazi natyror që do të pengojë zhvillimin e burime të rinovueshme në rajon” Nevena Smilevska, organizata Eko-Svest nga Maqedonia e Veriut, shprehet, ‘’Pavarësisht se mund të jetë nga Rusia, Azerbajxhan, apo diku tjetër, rritja e varësisë nga importi (i gazit natyror) është gjeja e fundit që na nevojitet - një fakt i marrë nga rritja e cmimit të të gazit përgjatë këtij dimri nga pushtimi i Rusisë në Ukrainë. Sikurse BE gjithashtu kupton së sigurimi i energjisë nuk mund të mbështetet vetëm në importin e gazit natyror, po ashtu Komisioni Europian duhet të ndalojë sa më parë promovimin e gazit natyror në Ballkanin Perëndimor.” Nataša Kovačević, CEE Bankwatch, shprehet se “Rishikimi i humbjeve gjatë shpërndarjes së energjisë elektrike, rritja e pompave me nxehtësi dhe cative me panele diellore, apo teknologji e re për ruajtjen e nxehtësisë dhe rinovimi i rrënjësishëm i ndërtesave të banimit kanë nevojë për vëmëndje shumë të lartë nga Komisioni Europian për të kompensuar vitet e humbura për promovimin e gazit natyror”. Kontaktet: Pippa Gallop, Southeast Europe Energy Advisor, CEE Bankwatch This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.+385 99 755 9787 Natasa Kovacevic, Campaigner for Decarbonisation of District Heating in Western Balkans This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +382 67 030 033 https://bankwatch.org/press_release/activists-call-on-eu-to-stop-promoting-fossil-gas-dependence-in-the-western-balkans  
  • Media release: Open letter addressed to EC regarding fossil gas in WB region

    Media release 5 April 2022 Today’s letter calls on the Commission to ramp up sustainable energy investments that are being neglected in the region, instead of continuing to promote fossil gas. Denis Žiško from the Aarhus Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said, ‘Promoting increased fossil gas use in the Western Balkans at this stage of the global climate emergency is irresponsible and counterproductive. Our low gas dependency is a plus, not a minus, as we move towards electrification of heating and transport. New infrastructure built now will end up either as stranded assets or as a fossil gas lock-in that will hinder renewables development in the region’. Nevena Smilevska of Eko-Svest in North Macedonia, said, ‘Irrespective of whether it is from Russia, Azerbaijan or elsewhere, increasing our import dependency is the last thing we need – a fact underlined by this winter’s gas price hikes and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As the EU finally realises that its own energy security cannot be based on fossil gas imports, so too must the Commission urgently stop promoting this dead end in the Western Balkans’. Nataša Kovačević of CEE Bankwatch Network, said, ‘Tackling electricity distribution losses, increasing the use of heat pumps and rooftop solar, innovative heat storage technologies and deep renovation of residential buildings need much more high-level attention from the European Commission to make up for the years lost promoting fossil gas’. Contacts Pippa Gallop, Southeast Europe Energy Advisor, CEE Bankwatch Network This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +385 99 755 9787   Natasa Kovacevic, Campaigner for Decarbonisation of District Heating in Western Balkans This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +382 67 030 033   https://bankwatch.org/press_release/activists-call-on-eu-to-stop-promoting-fossil-gas-dependence-in-the-western-balkans  
  • Online interactive dialogue meeting with CSOs for the concept of Energy poverty

    Online interactive dialogue meeting with CSOs for the concept of energy poverty On the 25th of March 2022, EDEN Center held an overarching online interactive dialogue meeting with CSOs representatives and e-ACT’s local coordinators based in 12 districts of the country. The purpose of this meeting was to introduce the concept of assessment of energy performance based on the energy poverty concept. The meeting was attended by 24 attendees, representing +15 local CSOs based in different cities and regions of Albania, engaged in the environmental, energy, and EU integration process of the country. The online dialogue for the introduction of assessment of energy performance based on the energy poverty concept started with an opening remark by the EDEN Project Coordinator, Mr Ergi Bregasi, who briefly introduced the overall aim of the “e-ACT” project and the agenda of the meeting. Following this, the methodology of the assessment of the energy poverty state was shared with the attendees, where comments and suggestions were gathered for its improvement in order to obtain significant findings that will enrich the upcoming advocacy and lobbying discussions with state authorities in charge of energy and environmental issues. The assessment report on energy performance based on the energy poverty concept will support the advocacy efforts and participation of CSOs in the EU pre-accession process, specifically for chapter no.15 Energy.  The online dialogue on energy poverty assessment methodology wouldn't be productive without the active participation and contribution of CSOs representatives, activists, and local coordinators.  The online interactive dialogue meeting with CSOs for the introduction of the energy poverty concept comes as part of the "Empowering Civil Society Activism and Concrete contribution into EU accession negotiation process in Albania", implemented by EDEN Center and EDMI, with the financial support of the European Union in the frame of IPA 2017 program. #EnergyPoverty #eACT #EUfunded #IPA2017 #GreenPolicies #CSOs

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