Breakthrough growth in renewables in South-East and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia must be accelerated to end fossil dependency and boost energy security
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Breakthrough growth in renewables in South-East and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia must be accelerated to end fossil dependency and boost energy security

As part of REN 21 which is the global renewables community of actors from across science, governments, NGOs and industry, the European Renewable Energies Federation (EREF) warmly welcomes the substantial growth in renewable energies, emphasizing the need to increase decarbonisation efforts across all sectors until netzero economies will become reality. The main findings of the new status report are:

▪Renewables and energy efficiency offer an opportunity for a secure and sovereign energy supply in the region.

▪The region has seen an unprecedented growth in renewable electricity since 2018. The transport and heating and cooling sectors have not seen such increases.

▪ Public and private investment in renewables across the focus countries remains modest compared to global growth trends. Countries of the region need significant investment in renewables.

▪The Russian invasion affected 90% of Ukraine’s wind power capacity and 30% of its solar power capacity, representing around a quarter of the total wind capacity and a fifth of the solar capacity in the region.

Between 2017 and 2021, 17 countries of South-East and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, plus Kosovo, saw an unprecedented growth in renewable power capacity. Over this period, they cumulatively added 21 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, for a total installed renewable power capacity of 106 GW. For the first time, this growth was driven mainly by solar photovoltaic (PV) (58%) and wind power (25%) additions. The region’s wind power capacity grew by more than a factor of 7 and solar PV capacity by more than a factor of 10 between 2017 and 2021.

Ukraine installed the most solar PV and wind power capacity during this period (8.3 GW), followed by Kazakhstan (3.7 GW) and the Russian Federation (3.5 GW). These threecountries all ranked among the world’s top 30 countries for renewable energy investment in 2019, with Ukraine ranking 17th (USD 3.4 billion), the Russian Federation 20th (USD 2.3 billion) and Kazakhstan 28th (USD 0.8 billion).

Released yesterday, the UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report 2022 was prepared jointly by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It provides the latest update on the status of renewables and energy efficiency in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, the Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Energy security at the forefront

Despite breakthrough progress in renewables, these focus countries continue to depend heavily on fossil fuel sources and rely on a limited number of energy exporters, especially the Russian Federation. According to the report, 13 of the countries are highly dependent on energy imports, with 4 countries – Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova – importing more than 70% of their total primary energy supply. Renewables could help countries diversify their energy supply and protect against fluctuating natural gas and oil prices.

Large subsidies for fossil fuels and low tariffs for fossil and nuclear based energy hinder rapid deployment of renewables across all sectors. Although the size of energy subsidies as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) has declined in all the focus countries, it was still significant in 2020, especially in Uzbekistan (6.6%), Turkmenistan (3.2%), Kazakhstan (2.6%) and Azerbaijan (2.4%).

“Like everywhere across Europe and at global level, the expansion of renewable energy technologies are driven mainly by enabling climate and energy policies, as well as by decreasing technology costs – of course now, energy security is absolutely in the centre of everyone’s attention. It has never been more important to phase-out fossil, be it for the EU or the regions assessed in the status report,” said Dr. Dörte Fouquet, Director of EREF.

In this context, UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova underlined that “With the UN climate talks (COP27) only a few months away, countries and investors in the UNECE region must urgently redouble their commitments to renewables deployment to achieve global netzero targets and end fossil fuel dependency. This action is also vital to help countries get on track to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to speed the transition to resilient energy systems. Scaling up renewables investment is crucial to strengthen energy security and affordability in light of the energy and financial shocks related to the conflict in Ukraine."

The Russian invasion of Ukraine undermines progress in renewables in the region

As a consequence of the Russian Federation’s invasion, around 90% of the installed wind power capacity and around 30% of the installed solar power capacity in Ukraine was out of operation as of June 2022. This affected nearly a quarter of the region’s total wind capacity and a fifth of its solar capacity since Ukraine has been a leader in renewable installations and investment in recent years.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has made it all so clear that we need to urgently reduce Europe’s resource dependency and stop importing and consuming fossil fuels as soon as possible. Today’s multiple crisis levels is putting the spotlight on the benefits of a rapid energy transition and the much needed surge in renewable installations,” said Dr. Fouquet.

The potential for renewables in the region remains untapped

Despite significant growth in renewable power, the potential of renewables across other sectors remains untapped. Buildings, transport, and industry account for the largest energy consumption across the region, yet the share of renewables in these sectors’ energy use has changed little. Ukraine achieved the highest share of renewable energy in transport across the region, at only 2.5% in 2020.

Energy efficiency policies, especially for buildings, improved greatly across the region over the last five years. However, the energy intensity of all focus countries except Albania remained higher than in the European Union (EU-27) in 2019, with the highest rates in Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation.

Need for increased investment, regional co-operation and domestic supply

The report documents significant progress in the adoption of policies and targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency, with 15 of the focus countries having established national renewable energy targets and 4 countries having set a target for net zero emissionsor carbon neutrality. However, gaps remain in the adoption of policies and action plans, and implementation remains slow.

As a result, the combined public and private investment in renewables across the focus countries remains modest compared to global growth trends. In 2016, renewable energy investment in the region fell to USD 2.7 billion before returning to the 2013 level of USD 7.2 billion in 2018, representing around 2.2% of the global total[4]. In comparison, USD 56.5 billion was invested in renewables in the EU in 2018.

“To ensure a zero-carbon future with affordable energy costs, countries need to work towards establishing a 100% renewables-based energy system. This can be achieved through more ambitious targets levels and consequent policy implementation, favourable frameworks that foster domestic supply chains and stronger cooperation, including among the EU and its neighbouring regions. Authorities and industry leaders should take the initiative and put about the solutions renewable energies offer to tackle the many challenges into the context of our planet’s climate emergency, the cost-of-living crisis, as well as energy security and the performance of our economies”, said Martin Bursik, President of EREF and former Czech Minister for Environment.

For more information, please contact

Dr. Dörte Fouquet                                                       Dirk Hendricks

EREF Director                                                               EREF Secretary General                    

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