We spoke with five MPs from the region and asked them about the cooperation with GIZ ORF-EE. In the first of two interviews, you can read about their impressions, as well as their achievements in the energy sector which make them feel proud. Thanks to the support of the GIZ ORF-EE, the topics of sustainable energy, energy efficiency, climate change, sustainable urban mobility and energy poverty have been brought to the political agenda of the Western Balkans. Where was the support the most valuable for the regional cooperation of parliamentarians in the said segments? Which format of cooperation with GIZ ORF-EE do you find particularly useful for your work?
The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia has formed four informal parliamentary groups covering these matters. They are the Serbian Parliamentary Energy Policy Forum (PFEPS), the group for the achievement of sustainable development goals, the Green Parliamentary Group, and the Economic Caucus. GIZ has recognized the significance of this way of work. We have had exceptionally constructive and fruitful cooperation for many years. We cooperated on its projects for the development of the biomass market in Serbia and the region within the Strategy for the Danube Region, on energy efficiency projects, and on renewable energy projects. GIZ’s representatives participated in the establishment of PFEPS, which I have chaired since 2015, and in all meetings, giving a very valuable contribution by sharing know-how and experiences on the latest policies, regulations, technologies and research. With the help of GIZ, the members of PFEPS went for a study visit in September 2017 to the German state of Baden-Württemberg and learned about the subsidies and technologies for the use of biomass. In June of last year, they went to Berlin for a study visit. It was organized so that representatives of parliaments from the Western Balkans would get to know the best practices of the German parliament (the Bundestag and the Bundesrat) in promoting sustainable energy use, the improvement of energy efficiency, and the alignment of energy policy with climate policy.
The study visits contributed the most to the improvement of the quality cooperation among lawmakers from the region and Germany and the transfer of knowledge and experience.
In the past two years, members of the Energy Community Parliamentary Plenum participated in three Southeaster Europe Parliamentary Forums of South-East Europe on Energy Efficiency and Climate that were organized by GIZ ORF-EE within the project Regional Cooperation and Capacity Development of Parliamentarians of South-East Europe on Energy Efficiency and Climate Protection. According to my colleagues’ impressions and the reports, the study visits contributed the most to the improvement of the quality cooperation among lawmakers from the region and Germany and the transfer of knowledge and experience. Albania has a different background than the rest of the region in civil engineering and energy consumption. As a result of the political and economic transition in the early 1990s, most of the households used electrical energy for heating and cooling. The situation was reflected in daily power cuts, losses in the grid (38%), and poor performance on investments.
As a result of the political and economic transition in the early 1990s, most of the households in Albania used electrical energy for heating and cooling.
In 2013, a new socialist government identified reforms in the energy sector as key in the country. The intervention was twofold. Firstly, enforcing sanctions on the illegal consumption of energy, and secondly, improving the legal framework. While I chaired the parliamentary Committee on Production Activities, Trade and the Environment, I was deeply involved in the legislative process for three important draft laws: on electricity production and transition, on energy efficiency, and on renewable energy sources. Thanks to the regional cooperation of the parliamentarians supported by GIZ ORF-EE, we were better equipped with the best examples of MPs’ role in further advancing the energy agenda. Stakeholder participation in the policymaking and the legislative process directly improved the quality of the laws and their implementation. During the discussion on the bills, our committee developed a comprehensive and inclusive consultation process with all participants in the energy market. Seven hearing sessions were held with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and public institutions, including Albanian Power Corp. (KESH) and the National Agency of Natural Resources (AKBN), but also associations of builders and architects and international organizations such as GIZ and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The media were also invited to the hearings, with the aim of ensuring greater visibility and promoting the discussions.
During the discussion about the bills, our committee developed a comprehensive and inclusive consultation process with all participants in the energy market.
The Academy of Political Studies held two additional hearing sessions with the group of interested parties about the draft Law on Energy Efficiency. The institution offered all the support and coordinated every detail for the participation of several public institutions, donors, the private sector, civil society, and the media. The committee took note of over 15 recommendations and applied to the final version some of the reformulations in the creation of the Energy Efficiency Fund. Thanks to the support from GIZ ORF-EE, I have participated for many years in various energy efficiency and renewables projects, and since recently also in an urban mobility project. I believe that engagement on these topics is very important for each parliamentarian from the Western Balkans. This, combined with education and the exchange of experiences, contributes to the strengthening of regional cooperation on energy, one of the key sectors. The participation in SEE Parliamentary Forums on Energy Efficiency and Climate, organized by GIZ ORF-EE and held back-t0-back to the Energy Community Parliamentary Plenums is an opportunity to coordinate public policies, while formats such as study trips and regional conferences are of exceptional significance. The cooperation with GIZ ORF-EE is more than beneficial for our country. I am saying this as a member of the Macedonian parliament and as the chairwoman of the Committee for Transport, Communications and the Environment. I remind you of the study visit to Berlin last year, whose aim was to introduce participants of the study trip from WB6 to the best parliamentary practices within the German Bundestag and Bundesrat in advocating the implementation and improvement of energy efficiency, climate protection, and urban mobility policies, as well as to the best examples in the above mentioned fields in the city of Berlin. The study visit to Ljubljana this year was also beneficial as we learned how Ljubljana handles urban mobility and traffic. I see these study visits as a useful tool to mobilize MPs’ awareness and work in our countries on improving these areas both in the sense of political dialogue and actual work on the ground. In this way you can see progress with your own eyes and you get a feeling that immediate action in our countries is paramount. As a member of parliament, I have benefited greatly from the GIZ ORF-EE projects in two ways. First, by getting to know the challenges and achievements in the field of energy and sustainable development in general, and secondly, by working closely with other lawmakers from the region, where it seems the situation in the energy sector is almost the same as in Kosovo, as well as with members of the European Parliament. Both formats have been very useful: SEE Parliamentary Forums and study visits.
What is your biggest personal achievement and contribution to the parliamentary processes or to policy implementation in sustainable energy, climate action and sustainable urban mobility?
The greatest success in the cooperation with GIZ, not only for me personally, but also my colleagues in the Serbian Parliamentary Energy Policy Forum (PFEPS), is that the energy passports for the House of the National Assembly, the building of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and the Palace of Serbia have been produced, which is the first step in the process of their energy efficiency refurbishment. The Energy Development Strategy of the Republic of Serbia until 2025 with Projections to 2030 gave the guidelines for the future, as did the creation of the Study for Financing of Projects for the Sustainable Development Goals. This study created conditions for funding from the state budget to be allocated for energy efficiency refurbishments.
When a budget is drafted, I first examine the provisions for energy efficiency.
When we passed the Law on Efficient Use of Energy in 2013 (at the time I was the Head of the Committee on the Economy, Regional Development, Trade, Tourism and Energy), I formed the panel’s working group for tracking and improving energy efficiency. It worked very hard on getting the law implemented as soon as possible. We cooperated with ministries, the university and local authorities, and we pointed to the best financing models. I was a member of the Energy Community Parliamentary Plenum and I founded the PFEPS. Now I am also the Chair of the Committee on Finance. When a budget is drafted, I first examine the provisions for energy efficiency. I look with pleasure at refurbished, energy efficient hospitals, kindergartens, schools, the buildings of ministries and local authorities, and residential buildings. I also feel joy since I have contributed to the process and I know I will keep contributing to ensuring a better quality of life for my fellow citizens.
I highlight removing legal barriers that hinder private initiatives in the photovoltaic segment as an example of cooperation as a parliamentarian and, currently, the Minister of State for the Protection of Entrepreneurship. Albania has put into place a net metering scheme for photovoltaic systems for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and households with capacity up to 500 kW. The scheme was originally envisaged under Albania’s 2017 law promoting renewable energy but it didn’t enter into force due to delays in the procedure for facilitating an energy exchange for the grid. In October 2017, we had a study visit to company EuroElektra, organized by the Academy of Political Studies and supported by GIZ ORF-EE, as part of a parliamentary hearing. During this visit, I met executive director of the company Elton Çekrezi, who expressed concern about the delay in drafting the secondary act, which would enable the implementation of the net metering scheme. From that moment, I have been in communication with him regarding the facilitation of this procedure to be undertaken by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy.
The first net metering scheme for solar photovoltaic was adopted in July.
In January, when I was appointed the Minister of State for the Protection of Entrepreneurship, the photovoltaic issue became a priority. A month later Çekrezi took the initiative to create the Solar Energy Renewable Energy Interest Group, composed of all companies operating in the photovoltaic market in Albania. Then the official communication with Minister of Infrastructure and Energy began regarding the approval of the Guidelines for small renewable energy projects, which I facilitated. I considered the communication and support of this interest group very relevant and I facilitated communication with the Ministry of Energy for the creation of the working group. As a result of this process, the first net metering scheme for solar photovoltaic in Albania was adopted in July 2019. This is an example that shows many obstacles can be overcome thanks to cooperation between different actors.
One of my biggest achievements, for sure, is my very active engagement in the processes of the adoption of energy and energy efficiency laws. A good part of my propositions, suggestions and amendments were implemented in laws. This wouldn’t be possible without the support from GIZ and the montenegrin School of Political Studies, for which I am grateful. The national policy was presented at the parliamentary forum and it was was honored to be the rapporteur at the plenum. I note that with the School’s engagement and GIZ’s support, in 2013 a parliamentary delegation from Montenegro, first parliamentary delegation ever, visited the Energy Community Secretariat in Vienna for the first time and that it was the basis for the establishment of the Energy Community Parliamentary Plenum, which is a very important parliamentary mechanism to facilitate the creation and implementation of policies across the Western Balkan parliaments and other Energy Community Contracting Parties.
I can point to two achievements – the first one is the full attendance that we had during the presentation of the White Paper on Urban Mobility by the members of the committee that I chair. The interest and focus were more than obvious. The second one is my note to the Committee on Finance and the Budget on the need for a higher allocation when it comes to energy poverty. It was the result of my attendance at the Second South-East Europe Parliamentary Forum on Energy Efficiency and Climate, which took place a year ago in Skopje. We can always do better, but I sense there is awareness and willingness among the lawmakers in the Macedonian parliament, so it is a promising base for further actions.
Sala BERISHA SHALA:
I would like to emphasize that during the term of the outgoing legislature, and with the support from GIZ ORF-EE and the Prishtina School for Political Studies, the Assembly of Kosovo or, more specifically, the Committee, has reviewed and adopted the Law on Energy Efficiency. Amendments have made it quite advanced and in full compliance with the requirements of the Energy Community.
This content is produced by BGEN partner:
GIZ Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Energy Efficiency (ORF-EE)
Project HQ – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina