After many years of fatigue, it seems that the National Plan for Energy and Climate, as well as the forthcoming Energy Development Strategy, signal a more profound shift towards effective energy transition
Experts have spent years debating whether Serbia has the potential to leapfrog the energy transition process. Among the “pluses” they’ve noted the availability of renewable energy sources, the potential for regional cooperation in the energy sector and under-utilised human capital. On the other hand, there are also significant obstacles, such as persisting with the policy choice of preserving low energy prices, combined with high energy intensity, the prioritising of energy security, the inadequacy of the utilising of renewable sources, a lack of policy coherence and dependency on external funding.
At least some of these obstacles were recently lifted through the introduction of a set of laws aimed at putting the energy transition in motion. They are inspired by the EU, which is considered a global leader in energy transition thanks to it having seized the economic and industrial opportunities offered by this global transformation and developed its own approach to energy competitiveness and security.
This is a significant change, given that Serbia, for many years, exhibited little ambition to tackle climate challenges and devise energy policies that would drive energy transition forward, in line with the Paris Agreement and the EU Clean Energy Package. Several European Commission reports on Serbia noted that the transposition and implementation of the EU energy acquis has been below expectations, despite the nudges of the EU and the Energy Community.
Experts note that the ongoing energy transition brings challenges related to the security of supply, employment and energy affordability, but also brings many rewards if properly executed
It now seems, however, that we are finally moving in the right direction, with the drafting of an integrated approach to national climate and energy goals. Serbia’s new legislative initiative comes after the EU completed a comprehensive update of its energy policy framework to facilitate the transition away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy and delivering on its Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It is important to note that this comprehensive process is not only about the mix of energy resources, digital transformation or emissions. Rather it is a process that envisages deep changes within society.
The toughest part for countries like Serbia is moving away from dependence on lignite. This is a task that analysts describe as “difficult and incomparable to any recently executed reform or transformation by Serbian society”. As noted in the interview with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mining and Energy Zorana Mihajlović, deciding on the future of lignite is probably the most important decision facing Serbian society, and the whole process will take several decades to complete.