Countries in the Western Balkan region have a lot of unexploited potential for the application of renewable energy sources. An EU-funded initiative worked to bring industry and the research community together to find solutions where needed and expedite the implementation of relevant technologies.
By removing certain barriers to the implementation of renewable energy source (RES) technologies, the Western Balkans could contribute significantly to the security of energy supply across the region and beyond. However, any moves in this direction must take into account the specifics of electricity supply in war-ravaged and isolated areas.
The 'Virtual Balkan Power Centre for Advance of Renewable Energy Sources in Western Balkans' (VBPC-RES) project was established to detail such specifics and help provide impetus for a move towards region-wide RES implementation. Objectives focused on transferring RES technology know-how, and identifying major investment concerns, barriers to implementation and options available. Work also placed great emphasis on building awareness and offering educational opportunities regarding the means and benefits of RESs.
Project partners organised a series of expert workshops on RES technologies and related best practices with regard to isolated regions, and other workshops on issues relevant to the regulation of RESs for each Western Balkan country. They also set up two scientific conference sessions to generate discussion on VBPC-RES topics, and another two conferences for regional decision-makers aimed at raising awareness among key focus groups.
Local workshops were held in each Western Balkan country to focus on their particular situation and strengthen the link between decision-makers and the scientific community. Lastly, two summer schools focusing on RES technologies were held for students, promoting the exchange of personnel within the region.
The project's activities and approach contributed to critical market developments and industry issues, as well as strategies followed or adopted by European energy practitioners. As such, the VBPC-RES also made possible unique networking opportunities for increased interaction among research institutions, facilities and industrial partners. This move alone stands to heavily reinforce research potential across Western Balkan countries, while cooperation with EU research institutions will help integrate regional research activities into the European Research Area (ERA).