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INTERVIEW – Green energy in EBRD's focus in SEE

May 27, 2024, 2:52:56 PMInterview by Nevena Krasteva
May 27 (SeeNews) - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) plans to invest more than 2 billion euro ($1.09 billion) in Southeast Europe (SEE) this year, with a strong emphasis on renewable energy as well as power transmission and distribution systems, Charlotte Ruhe, the bank’s managing director for Central and Southeastern Europe, said.

INTERVIEW – Green energy in EBRD's focus in SEE
Photo: EBRD

“So far this year, we have signed 200 million euro in energy investments in the region,” Ruhe told SeeNews on the sidelines of the bank’s annual meeting held in Yerevan, Armenia, earlier this month. “We have a pipeline of 600 million euro this year - a combination of renewable energy, about 60%, and distribution and transmission.”

The EBRD is a key financial player in SEE and the largest international investor in the Western Balkans. In Serbia alone, it signed last year a 300 million euro loan to back the country’s electricity sector and support its green transition.

The bank is also providing advisory support to governments in the region, helping Albania, Serbia and Romania hold their first renewable auctions. In Albania, it backed the development of the region’s first floating solar plant, the 140 MW Karavasta project, and is working on a similar project in Montenegro.

“We are also working with the government of Bulgaria on battery storage and we’ve been working with North Macedonia on the just energy transition platform. We helped them to raise 80 million euro of donor financing to help with the exit from coal and to help the communities where they will be affected by the closure of the coal mines,” Ruhe said.

“We are working on a number of fronts. I would say that it was challenging initially because in some countries there was a preference for the state-owned power utility to do the renewables," she noted. However, it is the private sector that has the know-how and can raise the necessary capital, Ruhe explained.

Investments in municipal and transport infrastructure are another key focus area for the EBRD.

“Our Green Cities programme is very active in the whole region. In Romania, we have a very strong franchise in the water sector. In Bulgaria, we financed the airport and we are looking at some port infrastructure. In the Western Balkans, we are very active in both rail and road corridors, but also in the Green Cities,” Ruhe said.

To help promote the green agenda, earlier this year the bank invested in green bonds issued by the Croatian subsidiary of Austrian banking group Erste and Slovenian energy company Gen-E. In the Western Balkans, however, bond markets are still underdeveloped, she noted.


In 2023, the EBRD invested in R.Power, a Poland-based renewable energy company active in Romania, and in Croatian business process and technology outsourcing services provider M Plus. The bank is also making equity investments in the property sector, in which the leverage is lower because of development risks, in the financial sector, ICT, agribusiness and retail.

“Our pipeline is strong,” Ruhe said, adding that in one of its most active markets, Bulgaria, its portfolio is 28% equity.

In the Western Balkans, however, the small size of companies and unwillingness on the part of family-owned businesses to bring in an external investor limit equity investment opportunities.


To make their countries more attractive to investors, governments in the region should reduce bureaucracy and strengthen the rule of law, Ruhe said.

A straightforward, simple and fast process for the registration of a business, for licensing, or land-repurpose, especially if it is digitalised, is of primary importance to investors, she stressed.

“Then I would look at the labour law at the level of social taxation. In some countries it can be quite high and I think that that can be a bit off-putting for investors.”

Another important element is to ensure the efficiency of commercial courts, to make sure that the judges are well educated, that their decisions are seen as fair and not as a result of some corrupt process, Ruhe stressed, adding that good infrastructure and access to green energy are another key factor for bringing investors to the region.

($=0.9207 euro)

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