Members of parliament (MPs) from the Energy Community (EnC) contracting parties in South-East Europe (SEE), in collaboration with representatives of the Network of the Schools of Political Studies, prepared a Joint Report on the future of energy efficiency in the Energy Community, following the adoption of the Clean Energy for all Europeans package at the 3rd South-East Europe Parliamentary Forum on Energy Efficiency and Climate. Based on the proposition by SEE parliamentarians who attended the Forum, the report was deemed a Joint Declaration, reads the article published by the portal Balkan Green Energy News.
The Joint Declaration, consolidating inputs by MPs from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia was also presented at the Energy Community Parliamentary Plenum, which was held back to back with the 3rd SEE Parliamentary Forum on 19 February in Brussels. After the implementation of the envisaged procedure, the document will be formally adopted by the Energy Community.
The 3rd SEE Parliamentary Forum was organized by the GIZ Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Energy Efficiency (ORF-EE), in cooperation with its partners – schools of political studies – on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
The Joint Declaration encourages the contracting parties of the EnC to take on a proactive approach to achieving energy efficiency objectives by the set deadline in 2020, taking into account that a large number of obligations from the EU acquis have not yet been fulfilled by SEE countries, also taking into consideration the short period left for meeting the objectives.
Aleksandar Damjanović, Montenegrin MP
The adoption of the Joint Declaration demonstrates the responsibility and striving to place energy efficiency high on our national, parliamentary, and legislative agendas. We are also demonstrating the capacity to work jointly and become a credible partner to European institutions and parliamentarians in defining joint policies. Energy efficiency, environmental protection and climate changes policies are perhaps what brings the region closest together. This approach has proven to be very useful. I hope this is one more step towards a higher level of integration in the energy sector, and therefore the region’s integration into the EU.
It stresses that along with achieving these goals, it is necessary to work on securing legal and institutional conditions for meeting the goals of the Clean Energy for All Europeans package.
The Declaration highlights that increasing energy efficiency contributes to economic growth, especially in the building and transport sectors, including sustainable development, and job creation, pointing to necessary steps to be made by EnC contracting parties for an increase of the standard of living and improvement of the quality of life of citizens.
Policymakers face a huge challenge: How to create an energy system fit for the 21st century?
Opening the 3rd SEE Parliamentary Forum, Jasna Sekulović, ORF-EE Project Manager, recalled the journey that the participants of the Forum embarked on 14 months ago, crowning it with the Joint Declaration in Brussels.
The journey encompassed several events, starting with December 2017 when the 1st SEE Parliamentary Forum was held in Vienna. It was followed by a study visit to the German Bundestag/Bundesrat in Berlin in June 2018, which offered an opportunity for MPs to learn about the experiences of their German peers. Further on, in October last year, a meeting with members of the EU parliament was also held in Vienna.
Only two months ago, at the 2nd SEE Parliamentary Forum in Skopje, participants discussed energy poverty, Sekulović said, adding that numerous other regional events, providing a platform for experience and knowledge exchange, were organized in cooperation with partners.
Ljilja Zovko, Chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, Parliamentary Assembly of BiH
The fact that this is the first joint statement by SEE contracting parties says a lot. I am particularly pleased that all the countries of the region have recognized their common interests and the model in fulfilling their obligations in the sector of energy efficiency, but also in reference to air pollution and other sectors targeting sustainable development. It is important to understand that by using our own resources, we can find modes to meet the standards and obligations that lie ahead of us, without creating damage to our economies and sustainable development.
Joachim Gaube, ORF-EE Sector Fund Manager, added that he is delighted to see that energy efficiency has become an important topic in SEE, reflecting on the fact that parliamentarians from all EnC SEE contracting parties have met at the Forum in Brussels, demonstrating their dedication to advance sector reforms in their countries and the SEE region as a whole.
Energy efficiency has become the backbone of European climate policy, Gaube said, adding that this is also the energy transition motto par excellence and describes the prioritization in all energy planning, policy and investment decisions.
“As energy policymakers you face a huge challenge: How to create an energy system fit for the 21st century? At the same time, you have to plan an energy transition that is just, affordable and beneficial to citizens and businesses simultaneously. ’Energy Efficiency First’ can help bring down the costs of energy transition. By using energy more wisely, you can help create growth, create jobs, reduce energy imports and improve air quality,” Gaube added.
Energy efficiency is a way to improve the living standard of citizens
Presenting the Draft Joint Declaration, which consolidated inputs of SEE MPs, Aleksandar Damjanović, the author of this document and Montenegrin MP, said that this way SEE contracting parties demonstrate their capability to move forward on very important topics, such as energy efficiency.
The Joint Declaration demonstrates that contracting parties are familiar with the latest developments regarding the energy efficiency legislative framework, including their readiness to transpose and implement the Clean Energy for All Europeans package as soon as possible, Damjanović noted.
The contracting parties, he added, want to show this way that energy efficiency measures are a way to improve the standard of living of citizens and ensure faster economic growth.
Lidija Radulović, Project Coordinator, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Serbia
Considering the fact that the Forum has been held for the third time, I see it as a proof that things are changing for the better, maybe not as fast as we would like to, but that does not diminish the value of the change that we strive for. The agreement that we achieved is very significant – the Joint Declaration proves that we all are aware that only through joint effort and cooperation, both, parliaments from the region and members of the Network of Schools for Political Studies, can achieve something better. The next step for the Secretariat of the Energy Community is to forward this document to the Energy Community Ministerial Council in order to back the joint initiative and accelerate the process of meeting goals.
The Montenegrin MP said that the Declaration rounds off all the work and efforts of MPs and the NGO sector.
Damjanović also said that the SEE contracting parties were not very effective in implementing the acquis so far, and yet the new legal framework is around the corner, such as the Clean Energy for All Europeans package.
He, therefore, called for the adoption of a faster pace and demonstration that with the help of the GIZ ORF-EE and the Network of the Schools of Political Studies SEE, the contracting parties have earned a partnership with the EU.
Erjon Tase, Director of the Academy of Political Studies in Albania, part of the Network of the Schools of Political Studies, said that the prevailing opinion in some SEE contracting parties, advocated by some MPs, is that not much can be done to improve energy efficiency.
Jasna Sekulović, ORF-EE Project Manager
The jointly prepared report, which has been turned into a joint declaration during the Parliamentary Forum in Brussels, on suggestion of SEE parliamentarians, shows that their participation on numerous activities, supported by GIZ ORF-EE, has strengthened their commitment to work more proactively on effective EE policy implementation. What I am especially proud of is the fact that SEE parliamentarians have recognized the potential of energy efficiency, realizing that it provides solid ground for their common action on regional level.
In addition to this, there is a problem with the implementation of the acquis, he said.
The role of the Network of Schools of Political Studies is to mobilize parliaments, other civil society organizations, and to assist technical staff in relevant ministries in bringing energy efficiency to the forefront, Tase noted.
Is energy efficiency becoming “first fuel” in Western Balkans?
Violeta Kogalniceanu, Head of the Infrastructure and Energy Efficiency Unit at the Energy Community Secretariat, said that countries in the region use different alibis to postpone energy efficiency measures.
Poverty as an excuse, as she noted, is not justified because the increase in energy efficiency reduces energy poverty by making savings.
Energy efficiency is not expensive, but it is a way to provide citizens with the services they need in the cheapest way, she said.
Kogalniceanu said that the European Commission, within the framework of the Energy Union, defined that by 2030, energy savings would be the first fuel in Europe, and she raised the question as to whether this should also serve as a model for the Energy Community contracting parties.
She said that in the case of energy consumption growth, governments have a choice – either to build new power plants or to invest in energy efficiency.
Niko Peleshi, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Productive Activity, Trade, and Environment in Albania
The main benefit from this Forum is that we can learn where we stand at and what our next step should be. It helps us keep up the pace with countries in the EU. It is also a way to design a better roadmap for weeks and months to come. Energy efficiency is an EU-wide concern and issue. And if we go further and align it with the bigger issue that climate change is, it becomes even more important. The Joint Declaration will encourage countries to push the EU agenda forward in all our countries, and that is why we consider it very important. We will continue to put pressure on domestic institutions and energy companies to follow the common European and world actions to increase energy efficiency.
The benefits of investing in energy efficiency have once again been demonstrated in the case of Serbia-based agricultural company Petrovec, which received a loan under the WeBSEFF II credit line within the Regional Energy Efficiency Program (REEP).
The EUR 443,000 investment in two crop drying chambers was supported with a EUR 360,000 loan. The repayment period is 1.7 years, with annual savings of EUR 255,000, an annual CO2 reduction of 2,760 metric tons, and annual primary energy savings of 14.280 MWh.
Kogalniceanu advised MPs not to allow investors to undermine the implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which is part of the regulatory framework for energy efficiency.
Calculations show that applying the minimum energy performance requirements increases construction costs by 5-10%, but this, according to her, is negligible having in mind that construction costs account for only 50% of the real estate price.
Kogalniceanu said that it is also the duty of MPs to provide a clear and stable legal framework for investing in energy efficiency.
Funds for investments are available, but they will not be used if there are no conditions for secure investment, she said.
Kogalniceanu noted that the adoption of the acquis by contracting parties often takes a lot of time, resulting in the adoption of standards which, in the meantime, have become outdated.