The Russia-Ukraine conflict has prompted the EU to focus more than ever on clean energy, to end dependence on Russian gas. This solution, with benefits for the climate, has been appearing in the national energy plans in Albania for several years, but diversification remains an unsuccessful challenge. Albania has failed to meet the target of providing 38% of its energy needs through renewable sources, solar panels or windmills. As the government continues to add ‘on paper’ the ambition for renewable energy, experts say that the main obstacle remains bureaucracy.
“Every kilowatt-hour of electricity that Europe produces from solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal or green hydrogen makes us less dependent on Russian fossil fuels. So invest in this. – declared the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen during the speech held at the Bled Strategic Forum on August 29, in Slovenia.
This year, the interruption of Russian gas supply brought winter earlier to Europe. The Russia-Ukraine conflict made the continent face the challenge of the green transition. Diversification of energy sources has been placed at the top of the European agenda, as a response to the crisis.
Even in Albania, the bells of the crisis culminated in the war that dictated staggering energy prices in the international markets.
Since the beginning of the year, the Albanian Electricity Corporation has bought about 284 million euros of electricity to meet the country’s consumption needs. Dependent on water resources, Albania is estimated to cover with local production about 70% of its energy needs, so the diversification of resources has taken an important place in the sector’s long- term strategies.
Anduel Çekrezi, representative of the Euroelektra company, which deals with the development of photovoltaic projects, says that the interest in investing in this type of energy is growing, especially this year.
“Interest has been higher this year as businesses have faced higher electricity costs and therefore have sought alternative ways of producing energy for personal needs,” Çekrezi emphasizes for Faktoje, adding that despite the high interest, the sector still suffers from some problems.
“The main problems are those related to the net energy measurement scheme, as today the balance is only measured on monthly basis, but consumers need annual measurements, so that what they produce in the summer, they consume in the winter. Also, the bureaucratic procedure of obtaining the relevant permits in the municipality is very long if we compare it with neighboring countries,” says the representative of the Euroelektra company.
To address these issues, the government has submitted for consultation this week a new draft law “For the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources”, which leaves open the fulfillment of the operators’ request for the annual energy measurement scheme.
According to data from the Energy Regulatory Authority, Durrës, Tirana and Elbasan are the areas with the most photovoltaic units installed for self-production.
While studies on renewable energy in Albania by National Agency for Natural Resources favor the installation of solar panels in Shkodra, Shëngjin, Kavajë, Fier, Vlorë and Sarandë due to the high average of solar radiation.
On the other hand, Albania has great potential for the development of wind energy.
“Even though some permits have been granted, no wind farm has been built in Albania at the moment,” says Enerjan Gremi, an engineer and designer in the field of renewable energy, for Faktoje.
Gremi adds that the main cause of this situation in Albania is the bureaucratic procedures.
“If for a photovoltaic project you have the land and continue the project, for a wind turbine you have many problems. You have to get a lease agreement with the land owner and this process is long and difficult. Therefore, to avoid this type of bureaucracy, the greatest convenience for investors would be for the auxiliary permit to be provided to the companies by the authorities.” – he emphasizes.
Eduart Gjokutaj, a knowledgeable specialist of the energy sector, at the same time an expert at ALTAX , a research and information center, says that the diversification of the energy production market should have already been in its consolidated investment stages.
“All the approved legislation is de facto ineffective and has not met any objectives, according to a preliminary monitoring we have done on the performance of regulatory policies. Meanwhile, at a time when the energy crisis does not allow the comfort of a weak performance as it is today, it is necessary to fill all the deficiencies and gaps of the regulatory and technical framework, with the aim of creating the necessary infrastructure for the rapid growth of investments for new renewable energy.” – emphasizes Gjokutaj for Faktoje.
One of the main objectives of Albania within the Energy Community Treaty is related to renewable energy. By 2020, Albania should meet 38% of its energy needs from renewable sources.
However, the latest annual report of the Secretariat of the Energy Community notes that the 38% target was unilaterally extended until the end of 2021. Despite the postponement, Albania still failed to achieve this objective, but this did not prevent the government from increasing its ambitions through long-term plans and strategies.
Screenshot from the Annual Report of the Energy Secretariat (November 2021)
From the 42% that was the goal set in the National Energy Strategy 2018-2020, recently, in a National Plan for Energy and Climate, the government pledges that by 2030 it will manage to provide 54% of energy consumption from renewable sources. The main pillar of this objective is the photovoltaic parks, especially the operation of Spitalla and Karavasta solar parks.
Diversification of energy sources is one of the main tasks that Albania has on its path to integration. The EU 2021 progress report, recommends Albania among others in its energy chapter, to continue diversifying sources of electricity production beyond hydro sources.