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Decarbonising the Balkans with solar

By Vanora Bennett

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  • €5.9 million EBRD loan to construct first large-scale solar power plant and expand renewables
  • Redevelopment of coal mine site will help decarbonisation of Macedonian power sector
  • Country aims to generate 23 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020

Macedonian plans to move decisively forward with decarbonisation are making a big leap forward. The EBRD is lending €5.9 million to ELEM, the state-owned electricity company, to build the first large-scale solar power plant on the site of an exhausted lignite coal mine. The company will meet the rest of the total costs estimated at €8.7 million.

The new solar plant is ELEM’s first and will be the largest in the country. Once operational it will produce nearly 15 GWh a year of electricity and displace 12,177 tonnes of CO2 a year.

It will also support ELEM’s efforts to rehabilitate the 26 hectare mine site that used to supply the TPP with coal.

The country, whose capital Skopje was recently named one of Europe’s most polluted cities, aims to source 23 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

This project will help the country reduce its reliance on ageing lignite-fired infrastructure and also help the local community in the Kicevo municipality, traditionally reliant on lignite mining and generation, to develop more sustainable practices.

ELEM, a public electricity generation utility owned by the Macedonian government, provides 90 per cent of the country’s domestic electricity production – about 3,600 GWh from two thermal power plants and 1,250 GWh from eight hydropower plants.

ELEM also operates two combined heat and power facilities and the first wind farm in the country, producing about 100 GWh annually.

The new solar project, signed in Skopje today by the EBRD’s Head of Power and Energy Utilities, Harry Boyd-Carpenter, and by ELEM Chief Executive Officer Dragan Minovski, will diversify the production mix of ELEM from coal and increase the share of renewables, providing more clean energy in a country and region with capacity shortages and high levels of carbon intensity.

Further support for decarbonisation and renewable energy targets comes in the shape of EBRD technical assistance in designing competitive renewable tenders for 200 MW of solar capacity and 150 MW of wind power capacity.

Italy is providing almost €75,000 towards technical due diligence. The EBRD Shareholders Special Fund (SSF) is providing €75,000 for environmental and social due diligence.

The EBRD’s Green Economy Transition (GET) Project Preparation and Implementation Framework will support the company during project implementation.

To date, the EBRD has invested more than €1.8 billion in 113 projects in the Macedonian economy.

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