"Euronews": Despite promises to become a coal-free country, Macedonia postpones deadline for closing coal-fired power plants

REK Bitola/ Photo: MIA

North Macedonia has about 280 sunny days during the year, so the idea of ​​phasing out coal seems like an easy task, but as a result of the energy crisis, the opposite tendencies are currently taking place - old coal-fired power plants release huge amounts of toxic emissions. in the air, and new lignite mines are even being opened, states "Euronews" in an article dedicated to the transition to green energy in the country.

The author of the article points out that despite promises to become the first "coal-free country" in the Western Balkans, the country has repeatedly postponed the deadline for closing coal-fired power plants.

According to "Euronews", as much as 47 percent of the electricity in the country is produced from lignite, while two thermal power plants "REK Bitola" and "REK Oslomej" are active.

Director of REK Bitola, Pece Matevski, says that in addition to the existing coal mines near the power plant, the opening of another mine is expected.

We will open "Zivojno" soon. In the next 30 years, we will have enough coal for the operation and functioning of the power plant, adds Matevski.

The text states that initially the country planned to phase out coal completely by 2027, but the energy crisis changed the plans and now the deadline for achieving this goal has been extended to 2030.

The activist for energy transformation in the non-governmental organization "CEE Bankwatch", Nevena Smilevska, assesses that the further delay of this transition could have an impact on the country's accession to the European Union.

The closing date should remain 2030. It is unlikely that we will be allowed to ignore the European Green Deal, Smilevska told Euronews.

According to her, the country will have to close coal-fired power plants before joining the EU.

It makes no sense to get a Just Transition grant to divest from coal and open a new coal mine. This is unacceptable and will completely destroy the strategy to cancel coal, Smilevska believes.

According to Euronews, the country's lignite reserves are running out, so it will have to import coal from neighboring countries.

Heavy reliance on fossil fuels does not improve air quality. In 2022, the coal-fired power plant in Bitola had the highest emissions of sulfur dioxide and dust in the Western Balkans region. 111.000 tons of sulfur dioxide were released - 17 times more than allowed, the text states.

The author of the article points out that the country with an average of 280 sunny days a year has ideal conditions for the production of solar energy, so in the oldest coal-fired power plant "REK Oslomej", which is located 120 kilometers from Skopje, the method of electricity production should to change with the construction of the solar plant over the open pit for lignite. However, the photovoltaic plant waits a year and a half to start feeding the grid with electricity.

We are still waiting for some permits from the authorities, says the director of the photovoltaic plant Chedomir Arsovski for "Euronews".

The text further states that the agreement reached at the Climate Summit - COP28 in Dubai could still speed up the energy transition of North Macedonia, in conditions where international creditors have announced that they will finance a three billion euro plan for the complete closure of coal-fired power plants. in the country by 2030 and replacing them with solar, hydro, wind and gas plants.

The aim is to ensure a "Just Transition", by producing 1,7 gigawatts of renewable energy and by multiplying energy storage capacities, while upgrading grid connections. Will the green ambition of North Macedonia be achieved this time? If the country manages to get rid of coal by 2030, it could be an example for the entire region of the Western Balkans, but also for some EU members, the text concludes.

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