Just Transition in the Western Balkans needs a concrete plan for citizens in the regions

Lessons learnt from Greece show that Just Transition in the Western Balkans should first translate into a concrete plan for citizens in the region, based on renewables, using dedicated funds, and enhancing citizens’ participation. This was the key message by Nikos Mantzaris at the Annual meeting of the Initiative for coal regions in transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine held in Brussels.

Sharing information on the evolution of  Greece’s electricity sector, Nikos Mantzaris pointed out how lignite phase out is actually feasible in a short period of time, especially once a coal phase out date is firmly decided and enshrined in the official planning documents, such as the NECP or the Climate law. As he noted, between September 2019 that the lignite phase out was announced until September 2023 lignite production in Greece has dropped by almost 60%, while clean energy – mainly wind, PV and to a lesser extent large hydro – already covers more than 50% of the entire electricity demand.

This path is also well reflected in the current draft of the NECP which sets some ambitious targets: 82% of electricity will be produced from renewables by 2030, while fossil gas will only amount for 18% of electricity production. Another very important aspect in Greece’s NECP is the increased role of electricity storage infrastructure.

Regarding Just Transition itself, Greece was very quick in developing a plan since the announcement of the lignite phase out, as well as funds to materialize it, some of which come from the EU ETS.

At the same time, irrational and costly investments in a new lignite plant and policies keeping the country trapped in the use of fossil fuels and especially gas, brought to surface the financial and social benefits of planning a transition from coal directly to renewables and storage without gas as a transition fuel.

Drawing on this experience, Nikos Mantzaris suggested that the Western Balkans should start their planning for Just Transition as soon as possible, develop a dedicated fund for this purpose using revenue  from carbon pricing policies such as the ones being currently developed in the Western Balkans, and make the planning and later the implementation process as participatory as possible involving local communities and their representatives in decision-making.

Other participants in the panel discussion “Just Transition as a building block in the transformation” included:

  • Branka Knežević, Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Leonita Shabani-Mullarama, Ministry of Economy, Kosovo
  • Aneta Kankaraš, Head of the Office for Sustainable Development, Montenegro
  • Oleksii Sobolev, Deputy Minister of Economy, Ukraine
  • Viktor Berishaj, Western Balkans Climate and Energy Policy Coordinator, CAN Europe

The panel discussion was moderated by Monika Figaj, Climate and Just Transition Expert from Energy Community Secretariat.

The Annual Meeting was held on November 27 & 28, 2023.

More information is available at energy.ec.europa.e