The transition towards clean energy sources is necessary not only for reaching the energy and climate goals, but also to protect people’s health. Also, the transition to green economy doesn’t exclude North Macedonia, even though the country’s energy system is almost completely dependent on coal, which is one of the main reasons the county climbed to the top of the global air pollution list.

Hence, the latest “Strategy for Energy Development of the Republic of North Macedonia until 2040” in two out of its three scenarios (referring to a moderate transition and a green scenario), envisions abandoning the coal as source of energy, but also investments in energetic installations using the sun and the wind.

One of the most important parts in this document for the civil sector is the fact that there are deadlines for closure of the coal thermal power station “Oslomej,” and transforming the operations at REK Bitola until the 2025, including clear goals for extending the share of use of energy from sustainable sources.

The start of administrative procedures for the building of 120 MW solar thermal power plants which will replace the TEC “Oslomej” is a great start for the energy transition, civic organizations point out. Still, they warn that the authorities have to meet the designated deadlines and that the Government should start with planning of a process of just transition for the regions using thermal power plants and mines with lignite. This means planning an alternative economic development for these regions in order to avoid social crisis if a large group of people is laid off, but also to provide ongoing economic development that will provide safety for future generations.

Елена Николовска, „Еко-свест“ | Фото: лична архива

According to Elena Nikolovska of “Eko Svest” organization, the Strategy has a vision to abandon the coal as the main energetic in two out of three scenarios. This indicates a higherambition for reducing the emissions of greenhouse gasses. But, there are also plans for an increase of the use of energy from the sun by building solar power plants on the location of the former mine at Oslomej.

“Certainly, the most acceptable scenario for us is the green scenario, whereas if we reject completely the referential scenario (that predicts REK Bitola will continue its work). In the next few months, a Program for Implementation will have to made, and the non-government sector will be stating its opinions and arguments” said Nikolovska.

The energy efficiency, which was accentuated in the Strategy, is announcing a transformation in the building sector for the needs of the modern homes that are led by the principle that the cheapest energy is the one that will not be spent.

Антонио Јовановски, „Гоу Грин“ | Фото: лична архива

During the process of energy transition, according to Antonio Jovanovski, member of the “Go Green” NGO, the fossil fuels industry will experience a downfall and layoffs unlike the sectors with renewable sources and energy efficiency which will experience a greater demand for workers.

“The process of gradual abandoning of thermal power plants using coal will also mean securing jobs for thousands of workers in this industry by coming up with a timely planning of a just transition and strategy for a green economy and green jobs. According to the analyses, the building industry will have the biggest growth of demand for green jobs on a global level while the production of electricity from the solar energy is expected to have the biggest growth. With the transition towards a green economy, certain jobs that do not qualify as green are expected to be closed such as the oil industry and the sector for coal processing” said Jovanovski.

As a consequence of decades of work by the biggest burning installations at REK Bitola and TEC Oslomej, a significant quantities of ashes and slag have been created. The result of the decades-long mismanagement of this waste are the two big landlines which are degraded areas and significant sources of dust. If the scenario that allows new excavation of coal is accepted, it will directly pose a threat as a new degradation and erosion of the soil, it will reduce the agricultural land and forests including pollution of underground and above ground waters. If we continue to use fossil fuels especially the coal, that will be one of the biggest dangers for the water, air, soil and the living environment, states the Evaluation of the Strategy’s influence on the environment.

The energy transition should continue and to be accelerated, but the planning of the just transition has to be started that will also encompass the regions and sectors that contribute to the climate changes – such as energetics, transportation and waste, but it should also include categories that are vulnerable to climate changes such as tourism, water, nature, urban environments. The production of “unclean” energy from fossil fuels, such as coal, according to the future that both scenarios predict, should also be changed with the acceptance of green policies. The just transition does not represent a single step but a longer period during which the workers will have to be provided with economic and social measures for adjustment to new policies and measures that will allow them jobs and integration in the new system, in accordance with the Paris Climate Treaty, which stresses that the governments should secure conditions that will allow the workers to have possibilities for decent jobs.

Still, the way things will unfold with the last “The Strategy for Energy Development of the Republic of North Macedonia until 2040” is now uncertain due to the situation with the coronavirus as it is necessary for the deadline of 6 months to be met during which the Government will have to make a decision which scenario it will choose.

Compared to previous similar documents, it is significant that with the new Strategy, the measures for energetic efficiency have been strengthened, as one of the biggest domestic resources, such as the investment in renewable energy sources and there aren’t any plans for building new thermal power plants using coal.

The “green” scenario will provide the biggest long term gains, but it will also require the biggest investments. The gains are financial, but there will be a reduce in the emission of greenhouse gasses and a reduction of local pollution. Most of the assets will have to be invested in the energy efficiency as well as renewable sources of energy. This scenario can open at least 6.000 new or redefined jobs domestically, where the jobs for the building of bigger hydro power plants haven’t been included, such as “Chebren” and the “Vardarska Dolina” power station, said Aleksandar Dedinec, research associate at MANU for energetics and living environment.

The country’s dependence on import of electric energy, which encompasses around 30% of the market’s total needs, according to the Strategy, is planned to be reduced gradually in the forthcoming years. The main pre-condition is the increase of production of electricity from domestic sources, including the investments in new capacities, primarily in renewable sources of energy.

Фотоволтаични панели | Фото: science in HD, unsplash.com

All three scenarios in the Strategy offer their models for reduced dependency on imported electricity in the forthcoming period. According to the presented strategies, the production should be increased to 9,4 TWh by the year 2040, mainly from renewable sources of energy and it should reach 71% of the totally produced electric energy.

According to this scenario, the dependence from importing will be reduce by 14%. In the scenario with a moderate transition, the capacity for production of electricity will have to increased to 4 GW by the year 2040 (twice more compared to 2017) where the sources of renewable energy will take up to 87 % of the total installed portfolio. The green scenario predicts North Macedonia, according to the projected major investments in renewable sources of energy, to reduce the import of electricity by 12 %, which will improve and increase the integration into the European system