In February 2018, in partnership with the European Climate Foundation (ECF), ASOR started the implementation of the project "Mobilization and involvement of stakeholders in the process of creating a sustainable energy policy of Serbia."
The project involved decision makers, industry representatives and civil society organizations active in the field of sustainable energy in Serbia.
In addition to changing the approach to energy policy making in the country by establishing mechanisms for involving relevant stakeholders in the process, the project also aimed to make a significant contribution to improving national energy regulations by creating recommendations for its implementation through cooperation with various energy policy sectors and beneficiaries.
During the project course, three focus groups and one final workshop were organized, which included the participation of a total of 87 participants from 46 different organizations and institutions.
1. Workshop - focus groups with civil society organizations in Serbia
The first workshop (focus group) was organized for the NGO sector in Serbia that operates in the field of environment, climate and energy. It was organized in cooperation with the National Convention on the European Union and was attended by 19 participants, from 16 leading CSOs from different parts of Serbia.
Project: "Mobilization and involvement of stakeholders in the process of creating a sustainable energy policy of Serbia"
The introductory lecture was given by Varvara Aleksić, an expert in energy and the environment, and then moderated by Maja Turković, co-founder of ASOR. It was dedicated to trends in EU energy and climate policy, comparing where Serbia is now, what are the obligations of countries in the near future, what will be the consequences in case of failure to meet the set goals and what are the best ways to choose ways to achieve goals related to climate and energy national goals.
Regarding the policy framework for the development of the energy sector in Serbia, the focus group considered three main components, namely:
1) Negotiations with the EU are underway,
2) Stabilization and Association Agreement and
3) Energy Community Treaty
Despite the fact that the three processes are formally independent, they are well connected and together form the driving force leading Serbia towards the EU. After a rather encouraging start in 2014, when most laws and bylaws were adopted, all fully in line with EU recommendations, a rather slow implementation process followed. Hence, the panel opened the question of the corrective mechanism of the Energy Community and the role of its institution. The "fourth" energy package of the EU, also known as the clean energy package, is on our doorstep. At the same time, Serbia is in the process of preparing a new legal framework in the energy field. A new (or amended) Energy Law is expected in the near future, as is the obligation to launch an integrated climate and energy planning process. Regarding these processes, focus group participants insisted on the full cooperation of various ministries, primarily the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. It was emphasized that Serbia should not lag behind the rest of Europe, and the gloomy economy cannot be an excuse to ignore important environmental problems.
The idea of introducing consumers, aggregators and local energy communities into Serbian legislation, as new market participants, was welcomed, because this idea includes clean energy, equal opportunities for all users and promotes the active role of ordinary citizens in national energy policy. Despite the fact that these ideas are well received by civil society organizations, as well as other stakeholder groups (eg the expert community), it was concluded that the general public is still not covered and that the level of awareness is very low, which emphasizes the need for future promotion in the general public.
Although some elements of the future energy law have already been made public, it seems that the role of RES is still underestimated and remains at an "unambitious level", well below the country's real potential. It was pointed out that Serbia is only a part of the bigger picture. Different countries in the region are at different levels of development, some are EU members, some are achieving better rates of RES implementation, and some are seriously lagging behind. Much stronger regional cooperation and a joint approach of NGOs from the region is imperative, as a control mechanism for decision makers in the region. The key role of the Energy Community in the implementation of regional initiatives in practice was emphasized.
2. Workshop - focus group with the industrial sector in Serbia
The second focus group was organized with the participation of developers and investors in RES projects in Serbia, in different stages of development (from the early stage of project development to operational projects). The workshop was organized in cooperation with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce on their premises; There were 21 participants, namely developers of wind, solar, small hydropower, biogas and biomass projects, representing 17 companies. The discussion that followed the introductory lecture by Dr. Branislava Lepotić Kovačević on the state of the art in the energy policy of Serbia, was of special importance for the Project because it included practical aspects of the implementation of the Serbian energy policy.
Much criticism has been leveled at the lack of horizontal and vertical harmonization of legislation. The adoption and implementation of EU legislation in Serbia should be done much faster than it is now, and the transposed legislation should be implemented without shortcuts. In addition, policies and legal documents should be developed and adopted with the active participation of all stakeholders involved. Moreover, industry needs to be informed about the process of policy and law development and the adoption of international obligations and agreements, in order to be aware of future trends and prepare for implementation, especially taking into account the impact of energy installations on the environment. Legal uncertainty is a serious obstacle to investment in RES. The necessity of revision of concession procedures was underlined, as well as different understandings of different laws that confront each other, and slow transposition of EU legislation, which is often done as a pure formality (and thus late application). In addition, bylaws are often subject to sudden changes or in some cases their adoption is delayed, which means that they enter into force too late in the process and therefore create a barrier to the implementation of RES projects. Several examples are given that illustrate these obstacles and problems, as well as recommendations on how to overcome and improve these challenges.
Concerns have been expressed that in the near future we will have a shortage of educated people and professionals, both in industry and in the public sector (and utilities).
The topic that received the most attention was related to the state of RES support measures. The current return tariff policy expires at the end of 2018. However, it is not clear which mechanism will be used to support investments in RES. There are rumors that an auction mechanism will be introduced, but it is not clear how the auctions will be organized or any other detail related to it (in relation to technology, capacity design or auction design). This long period of uncertainty prevents both investors and banks from supporting RES projects.
Developers and investors have expressed much criticism regarding the generally accepted view that RES represents an additional burden for end users and ordinary people. A strong message was sent that a public campaign was urgently needed to explain all the benefits associated with RES, including those for environmental protection.
Part of the panel was dedicated to the issue of the energy market, which is now limited within national borders, and cross-border cooperation in South East Europe is considered mandatory (eg with regard to the establishment of a regional balancing market).
Finally, the challenge was to animate and bring together industry representatives developing and / or implementing RES projects in Serbia to participate in such an event, due to the overload of discussions without specific measures, measures or a legislative proposal.
The workshop was followed by a survey conducted among representatives of the RES industry, whose results were used as a valuable input for the final document.
3. Workshop - representatives of decision makers
The third focus group was organized for public sector representatives with the aim of presenting discussions from the first two focus groups and highlighting new trends in the EU energy sector. Varvara Aleksić, an expert in energy and environmental law, presented the legal and political challenges of the Clean Energy Package, while Dalibor Muratović, Director of the Distribution Department of Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske, presented policy interventions regarding the integration of consumers into the network. The workshop brought together government officials responsible for implementing sustainable energy policy and legislation. The workshop was attended by 19 participants from the public sector: representatives of the Ministry of Energy, the regulatory body, utilities and DSOs, universities and the Prime Minister's Office.
The discussion on integrated climate and energy planning has raised concerns about the coordination of this process, which is considered challenging, especially given that at least two ministries and agencies, one responsible for energy and the other responsible for the environment, are responsible. In addition to coordination, the issue of institutional capacity and orientation towards long-term planning was raised (not only until 2030, but also until 2050). As an example of good practice, the role of the Monastery of the Mayor for Energy and Climate was highlighted, as a mechanism that recognizes the potential of local and regional authorities in the process of integration of energy and climate policy. The goal of this project is to increase their capacities in this regard, as a necessary part of the preparatory works before the energy and climate plans become mandatory for Serbia, which is expected in 2-3 years.
Participants agreed on the importance of strong political will over goals, in order to meet them. A vision that is developed by involving all relevant stakeholders and enriched by agreement at the national level, rather than being imposed from abroad, would bring the objectives closer to stakeholders and facilitate their implementation. Furthermore, harmonization of legislation, not only within the energy sector, but also with other sectors such as the environment and climate change, taxation, construction, procurement, etc. It is crucial for the implementation of the policy.
Evaluation of current policies and legislation is considered a major contribution to long-term planning. The purpose of evaluation as a way of expressing only critical opinion is not appropriate. The goal of this process is to go back in advance, look at the set goals, examine whether they have been met and suggest a way to overcome the challenges and improve the system. The conclusions of the evaluation process are in fact proposals for the next policy or legal document. Despite the fact that the assessment requires administrative and financial resources, the results of this process are much more valuable. In order to illustrate the specific proposal for the pilot assessment, the Sustainable Development Strategy of the Republic of Serbia was proposed, which expired in 2017, because it has not been renewed, extended or replaced until today. In this particular case, it is important to see if the Strategy has been successful, if not why, and to draw some conclusions from it as a way forward.
Finally, the presentation of the policy guidelines by the Energy Community Secretariat on Consumer Network Integration brought into discussion not only the regulatory and legal perspective, but also technical issues. As a key issue, it was pointed out that the entire system of consumer integration must be market-oriented, which will cause as little distortion in the market on any issue. On the other hand, key pricing principles for the use of the distribution system by consumers (cost-effectiveness and cost recovery) should be protected to the greatest extent, avoiding cross-subsidization between different network users. When it comes to the choice of technology, which was one of the concerns of the participants, all types of technologies should be able to connect with self-consumption. Regarding the capacity of installations, it is common to envisage two types of restrictions, the first restriction as a cumulative restriction for small installations, which would apply to households and small commercial customers; and another limitation related to the installed capacity of an individual connection, where it is necessary to meet the basic principle of the net budget - that the total annual production of consumers is less than their annual consumption.
4. Workshop - final conference
The final conference within the project "Mobilization and involvement of stakeholders in the process of creating a sustainable energy policy of Serbia" was organized in the premises of the National Assembly of Serbia in cooperation with the National Convention on the European Union. With four prominent speakers coming from Serbia and the region: Aleksandar Kovacevic, senior visiting researcher at the Oxford Institute of Energy; Maja Turković, co-founder of ASOR; Milka Mumović, expert for electricity and statistics of the Secretariat of the Energy Community, and Varvara Aleksić, expert for energy and environment, the panel are also envisaged as a summary of the results and conclusions from the previous panels. The results of the project are incorporated in the Final Report "Towards Sustainable Energy with the Civil Sector and Industry in Serbia", in electronic form which can be downloaded from the ASOR website (in English and Serbian). In addition, the results of the focus group discussions will be presented to the relevant authorities (primarily the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of the Environment) and communicated electronically to the participants of all focus groups.
The final conference was attended by 28 participants with a large response from CSOs from different parts of Serbia, members of the National Convention on the European Union.
In addition to the presented lectures, this panel presented the evaluation of the impact and acceptance of previous panels and outlined guidelines for future actions:
1) Better regional cooperation between CSOs, joint regional projects aimed at promoting RES in practice, avoiding outdated brochures on paper or scaring TV shows;
2) Ongoing communication with the authorities, especially in the process of policy development and adoption and legal framework;
3) Adoption of elements from EU legislation and its full implementation in national energy law and bylaws, not only formally, but with real impact in practice;
4) better harmonization of legal documents is needed, vertically and horizontally;
5) Fostering the capacity of local authorities to be ready to accept and support RES;
4th workshop - final conference
6) Fully adopt EU recommendations stemming from the Clean Energy Package with support for integrated climate and energy planning and initiatives to integrate new players into markets (consumers, aggregators and local energy communities);
7) Special attention and support to local energy communities, as a potential form of encouraging energy sustainability in a distributed manner;
8) Better cross-border cooperation in the energy field, especially in terms of markets, transport and networking, not only at the level of Southeast Europe, but also further in relation to the EU;
9) A benefit-oriented approach in advocating for a new energy policy in order to achieve better public acceptance of RES;
10) Much faster changes in energy and climate legislation, especially in the area of enactment of bylaws. Once adopted and harmonized with the EU, laws and bylaws should remain unchanged for a long time, ensuring legal certainty for the banking sector and investors.