South East Europe: The EU Road or the Road to Nowhere? An energy roadmap for 2050: Technical analysis

Technical Report CoverPolicymakers and political leaders in South East Europe (SEE) now stand at a pivotal crossroads. Each UN member state in the SEE region committed at the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris to strive to keep global temperature increase below 1.5° C and those countries are also committed to membership of the EU ; which brings with it stringent conditionality in energy and environment amongst many other sectors . Policymakers in South East Europe therefore need to choose between the current coal-based path of development or advance toward an EU accession pathway and a sustainable environment through integrated planning that utilizes diversified renewables, increased energy efficiency programs, and coordinated retirements of existing coal plants.

This paper provides the technical analysis that explains the critical pathway to achieve European integration and UN Climate commitments, described using the South East Europe 2050 Carbon Calculator; a policy decision-making tool that generates techno-economic scenarios for future decarbonization of the energy sector. The tool, which was developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) UK and now used by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and several dozen countries across the globe, is based on an open source design and emphasizes helping policymakers explore pathways and scenarios by changing levers and ambition levels in an online calculator tool.

Two key pathways are articulated and examined: a coal-dependent case called the “Road to Nowhere” based on planned coal investments and the “EU Road” case where South East European countries successfully comply with the current EU environmental and climate policies.

We identify four main conclusions:
1) moving toward renewables in the electricity supply along the EU Road is directly cost competitive with the coal-dependent case;
2) demand-side management yields opportunities for technological improvement, waste reduction, increased comfort/reduction of energy poverty, and job creation in the region;
3) the low-carbon transition offers the Balkans to become leaders, not laggards, and;
4) all of these benefits accrue before considering the external costs of coal to public health and the environment.

Taken together, these findings highlight for a region once seen as both troubled and a ‘policy taker’, not a policy maker, a clear economic, environmental and policy benefit from the aggressive pursuit of a regional clean energy partnership.