May 15 (SeeNews) - Limited reliance on wind and solar power, coupled with ongoing high use of fossil fuels, is increasing the cost of living in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) while curbing the competitiveness of local economies, UK-based environmental think tank Ember said in a new report.
If current barriers to renewable energy deployment are removed, in an ambitious scenario the CEE region could achieve a 29% reduction in wholesale power prices by 2030 and could grow sixfold, to 196 GW, its combined wind and solar capacity, Ember said in the report monitoring energy transition developments in eleven countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia that was published on Sunday.
You can download the 2023 Renewable energy in Southeast Europe report here
Wholesale power prices could diminish to an average of 41 euro ($44.59) per MWh in that second scenario, compared to 57 euro per MWh under the baseline scenario, also modelled by Ember.
At present, the eleven countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, together account for 17% of electricity demand in the EU, but for only 7% of wind and 12% of solar capacity in the bloc, respectively.
Under the ambitious scenario, Ember sees the region as fully sufficient in terms of electricity production by 2030, potentially turning into a net exporter and sending 23.1 TWh of electricity across its borders, compared to having imported 7.3 TWh in 2022. All in all, the CEE region could reach a 63% share of renewables in power generation in 2030, significantly higher than the 25% in 2022 and the 54% resulting from the baseline scenario.
However, even the baseline scenario assumes green energy growth beyond the targets set by multiple countries' National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), Ember argues. For instance, Bulgaria, along with Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Poland, takes one of the bottom five positions in terms of NECP targets for the share of renewable electricity in 2030, which hover around the 20% mark. The most committed countries in the region still remain below targets of 40%.
"A large part of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have fallen asleep in the deployment of renewable energy," Stepan Chalupa, chair of the Czech Renewable Energy Chamber, said. He added that barriers to renewables should be lifted as soon as possible, with the preparation of a project, for example a wind turbine, to take a year or two at most rather than 10 or more years.
The Ember report sees the potential for deploying 5 GW of offshore wind capacity in the Black Sea by the end of the current decade.
"Not only will wind and solar bring economic benefits, but they are also an absolutely crucial tool to build energy security given the region’s history and close proximity to Russia. CEE needs to channel the clean power momentum sweeping across Europe, failing to do so will have dire economic and security consequences," Ember senior energy and climate data analyst Pawel Czyzak said.
Ample EU funding is available for the energy transition in the region, along with state funding and potential private investments, Ember noted. That, alongside a compelling business argument in favour of renewables, means the CEE countries should use their Recovery and Resilience Plans and the revision of the NECPs due next month to signal their interest in seizing the opportunity to accelerate the green energy transition, the Ember report said.
($ = 0.9194 euro)