Just Transition in N. Macedonia: Lessons learned from Greece

Nikos Mantzaris participated in an international conference on the just transition of lignite regions in North Macedonia, organized by the environmental organization Eko-Svest, the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association and CNVP Macedonia.

The aim of the conference was to enable stakeholders from the Balkan region to share their views on how to drive the regional economies forward and ensure that the needed transition in the energy sector is just.

In his contribution, Nikos Mantzaris talked about the development of the just transition plan in Greece and pointed out lessons learned that could be useful for the Balkan region, and the Western Balkans in particular.

Starting with comparative data on the size of dependence on lignite, he stressed that lignite production in Greece is now steadily declining, while just transition planning (SDAM and territorial just transition plans) is almost complete.

Among the positive points of the Greek planning he listed the following:

  • Many sustainable choices particularly in the energy sector, renewables and storage (batteries, hydrogen).
  • Ensured funding
  • Increased level of transparency including extended consultation compared to other decision making procedures in Greece.
  • Eligibility for funding energy communities
  • Strengthening small scale renewables to cover needs in heating.

Among the negative:

  • Top-down, centralized governance mechanism.
  • Inadequate emphasis on sectors other than energy.
  • Inadequate emphasis on the conversion of lignite plants into thermal energy storage plants produced from renewables.
  • Fossil-gas based district heating.
  • Limited funding.

Drawing on the experience from Greece, he concluded his presentation by stressing the importance of an early decision to phase our lignite; the involvement of all stakeholders in just transition planning and implementation; collaboration with NGOs and think tanks; ensuring enough funding and incentives. Finally, he underlined the importance of investing in renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage, and energy communities, instead of investing in fossil gas as a transitional fuel which is not a sustainable option.

Other participants included representatives of national authorities, European organizations and other think tanks and NGOs.

The conference was held online, on May 18-19, 2022.