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News headlines send mixed signals for SEE renewables

Capacity and financing news draw positive picture, while government policy changes cast shadow

by Tsvetomira Tsanova

Around the globe the young renewable energy industry is facing numerous challenges and SEE is no exception. Sector players operating in the region, both local and foreign, are trying to survive amid policy uncertainty and retrospective changes in legislation, falling subsidies and reluctant financing. Yet, a quick browse through news headlines from the first half of 2013 shows that interest in renewable energy is picking up in SEE and more and more projects are becoming reality.

p60 most attractive markets

HPPs for western SEE, all renewables for the rest

It is hard to speak of the SEE region in general as each country here has its specific regulations, targets and challenges. An analysis of 300 articles published by SeeNews and other reliable news providers in the first half of 2013 shows that hydropower was the hottest green energy source in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia during the period. Nearly all news related to that group of countries concerned the hydropower sector and good hydrologic conditions locally are the main reason for this. Also, hydroelectricity is a familiar power generation method compared to new technologies such as wind turbines and photovoltaics (PV), which adds to its attractiveness. Last but not least, none of these countries were EU member states* in the period under review, so there were no binding targets pressing them to deploy various clean technologies.

In contrast to that first group of countries, news from Slovenia, Greece, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria was varied in terms of renewable energy source – there were articles on wind, solar, hydropower and biomass. Looking at the prevailing type of renewable energy resource in news headlines, the sunniest SEE countries in January-June were Slovenia and Greece. Most stories from Turkey and Romania were focused on wind power, while biomass attracted much attention in news from Bulgaria.

“Negative” news for EU member states in SEE

Our media analysis showed a curious trend when it comes to the mood in SEE renewable energy news. A negative mood in articles was mostly observed for the three EU member states Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, and to some extent the bloc’s newest member – Croatia. Only Slovenia was an exception with predominantly positive news. What is more, the majority of articles with the negative mood tag were related to government policy changes or market development. The following headlines speak for themselves:

  • Bulgaria to suspend some 40% of solar, wind power plants
  • Romanian renewable energy incentive cuts likely to deter investment
  • Greece will increase renewable-energy taxes next month
  • Croatia to redefine incentives policy for solar plants
  • Number of green certificates traded in Romania halves in March, prices fall
  • Lower feed-in tariffs could ‘neuter’ Greek solar: PV lobby
  • Wind turbine maker Vestas says deliveries in Bulgaria, Romania down in 2012

Overall, after the EU-promoted fever to stimulate renewable energy generation backfired, now the EU member states in SEE are looking for ways to slow down capacity installations as the costs for consumers are rising. Measures are rather inventive and included a proposal to introduce a levy targeting between 10% and 15% of the revenues that rooftop solar installations in Greece bring and the regular and scheduled suspension of solar and wind park generation that became reality in Bulgaria. Unsurprisingly, investment is already declining due to the policy insecurity in these markets.

On the other hand, renewable energy news from Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Slovenia were predominantly positive in January-June 2013. Kosovo presented its national renewable energy sources action plan 2011-2020 in the period; Serbia unveiled intentions to add 1,092 MW in green energy capacity by 2020; Albania gave the green light to a number of HPPs and started construction of new stations; and Slovenian solar module maker BISOL struck several deals and boosted production.

SEE’s renewables enjoy financial backing by development banks

The good news is that the majority of positive articles in the first half of 2013 were related to financing. Development banks played a major role in the SEE renewable energy sector – the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) appeared in eight stories while six articles involved financing from the IFC, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the World Bank, German KfW and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) also made the headlines in SEE renewable energy news at least once or twice between January and June.

Croatia got 388.8 million euro in financing, according to five news stories. Serbia and Romania got 144.2 million euro and 125.5 million euro, respectively, again according to headlines. Financing news from Bosnia and Herzegovina showed 125 million euro in attracted funds as well. Most of the allocated money went to the hydropower sector, with smaller portions for wind and solar projects.

News dedicated to financing accounted for 24% of all articles in the first half of 2013. Government policy news and market development stories also got a 24% share each. The rest was mergers and acquisitions and business news.

* Croatia joined the bloc at the beginning of July.