Electricity produced from coal has no future, regardless of how much the advocates of coal-fired power plants call for supply security and problems with balancing the variable production from renewable energy sources - the wind and the sun, Association of Energy Sector Specialists President Nikola Rajakovic has said regarding the energy crisis and energy transition in Serbia.
"Increasing electricity production from renewable sources, along with measures for increasing energy efficiency and decarbonization of energy production and consumption, constitute the backbone of the energy transition and the obligations Serbia took on by joining the Energy Community and accepting climate agreements," said professor Rajakovic.
Modern societies are founded on digitization and the Internet as the keys to communication and management, while in the near future they will also be based on solar and wind energy, as well as the digitized mobility of autonomous electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles.
"The energy sector is one of the most important branches of the economy in Serbia, while the concept of present-day energy in Serbia is still based on the economic paradigm of the 1970s, which is characterized by an energy intensive and inefficient use of energy in the sectors of heating, transportation and final use of electricity," said Rajakovic.
In electricity production, as he put it, Serbia predominantly relies on lignite-fired thermal power plants with low efficiency, and so the energy sector is the main polluter of air, water and soil and jeopardizes the environment and human health.
The Serbian energy sector, in his words, also has a dominant impact on greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 70% of total emissions.
Today's energy infrastructure, both in Serbia and the region, definitely cannot meet the demands of sustainable development in the 21st century, he said, and the risks of climate change to Serbia's sustainable development are obvious and threaten to endanger energy and other infrastructure, agricultural production, the accessibility of water, and public health.
"The functioning of the power system in current liberalized market conditions, with the introduction of competition and forming of electricity prices at an economically sustainable level, is definitely a prerequisite for an energy transition," Rajakovic said.
He pointed out that it was "clear that the energy policy and energy crossroads have for decades been among the key issues of modern civilization."
The complexity of the challenges energy faces today is, in his words, such that it requires even more thought-out teamwork and regional connectivity because room for maneuver for optimal solutions is limited primarily by climate change, but also by the available natural resources, economic limitations and available technologies.
"Finding optimal solutions in the multidisciplinary energy sector in transitional circumstances is definitely a very complex and broad problem, and in the 21st century the development of every country will depend on its capacity to adapt to new trends, the uncertainties of change and the challenges it brings," said Rajakovic.
He added that the international community's response to climate change was the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (in 2015).
The energy development guidelines, as he put it, should be based on sustainable development policies, taking into account supply security, price competitiveness, energy availability and sustainability in terms of climate change and in terms of environmental protection, with the efficient use of resources and clean energy.
A targeted increase in the sector's efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources may, according to him, simultaneously result in making energy a driver of stability and sustainable economic development, with the fulfillment of obligations taken on as regards the EU energy policies.
The secondary effects, according to him, will lead to an increase in sustainable development, a reduction of public debt and an increase in the sector's competitiveness, and so the energy transition should be seen as an opportunity for development.
Rajakovic further said that the concept of sustainable energy development could conspicuously affect the development of the Serbian economy and the region's economies because the energy sector was very powerful and one of the few which still had the power to launch an intensive economic recovery, and was simultaneously linked to the accompanying industries.
"The process of decarbonizing energy, which is to be completed in Europe by 2050, should be planned urgently and its implementation should be systematically initiated both in Serbia and the region in the next few years," said Rajakovic.
He went on to say that the implementation of the necessary reforms and the energy sector's transformation were complex political, economic, technical and social processes which called for a consensus of numerous interested parties.
Seeing as the energy transition, in Rajakovic's words, causes negative social consequences for certain social groups, especially due to a reduction of production and coal use, fair transition programs need to be planned and applied, which include the economic restructuring of the regions of Serbia that are highly dependent on fossil fuels and lignite exploitation.
The term "green growth" or "green economy" are, according to him, often used as synonyms for an energy transition, while that process entails a radical transformation of the energy sector which is based on decarbonization and digitization.
It is important, as he put it, for the energy transition to be fair from the aspect of all participants, which could partially be achieved through the decentralization and democratization of the sector and the inclusion of buyers as active participants in energy markets, simultaneously as producers and consumers.
"For Serbia's electricity sector, decarbonization means gradually abandoning the use of lignite and switching to domestic renewable sources, solar energy, wind power and biomass energy which will, together with the development of hydropotential, partially enable Serbia to become energy independent," said Rajakovic.
Specific plans with deadlines for shutting down all thermal power plants in the next few decades need to be prepared, he said, because taxes on CO2 emissions will certainly make the operation of those blocks economically unsustainable. That would also mitigate the environmental burden they place on Serbia.
Decentralization, in his words, entails the distribution of production in terms of geography and location, solar panels on roofs and small distributed solar power plants, which will bring energy co-ops additional democratization, or even the demonopolization of the electricity production sector.
"Digitization in a broader sense refers to the introduction of hardware and software for managing smart energy infrastructure, which entails the application of smart network technologies. For Serbia, digitization definitely creates serious economic chances as well, particularly for the innovative export-oriented economy," said Rajakovic.
In the European Green Deal (EU GD), adopted for EU citizens, the European Commission, as he put it, reaffirms its commitment to dealing with global climate and environmental challenges, which is considered the main task of this generation.
The EU GD, according to him, is a new growth strategy whereby the EU intends to transform into a just and prosperous society with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, with zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 and economic growth not tied to the exploitation of resources.
That is why this is the right time to accelerate the energy transition process in Serbia and that is why it needs to be recognized as an opportunity to secure more sustainable growth and development by switching more quickly to renewable energy sources and implementing digitization and decarbonization.
On the occasion of the 1000th edition of Beta Monitor, a specialized economic bulletin focused on South East European countries, Beta News Agency is releasing a series of articles on energy available free of charge on www.beta.rs in Serbian and on www.betabriefing.com in English.