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Can the Balkans steer away from fossil fuels? Albania and Romania are banking on it

Sunny Albania is boosting its supply of solar energy with almost 235,000 new solar panels at the Karavasta power station on the edge of the Karavasta lagoon national park.
Sunny Albania is boosting its supply of solar energy with almost 235,000 new solar panels at the Karavasta power station on the edge of the Karavasta lagoon national park. Copyright Moritz Kindler
Copyright Moritz Kindler
By Rebecca Ann Hughes with AFP
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The initiatives are important steps for a region where many areas remain reliant on fossil fuels.

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Two countries in the Balkan region of Europe have recently announced ambitious climate goals.

Romania has declared it will invest heavily in its aim to achieve climate neutrality while Albania is boosting its solar power production.

The initiatives are important steps for a region where many areas remain reliant on fossil fuels.

Environmentalists have long campaigned for alternative sources of energy.

Romania invests billions in climate neutrality

Romania has proposed earmarking billions of euros for its goal to become climate neutral by 2050, involving a 99 per cent reduction in emissions compared to 1999.

The investment of nearly €2.1 billion will soon be voted on by the government.

Romania plans to channel the funds into its three principal energy-consuming sectors: road transport, construction and industry.

Within these key sectors, the government will invest in high-efficiency machinery, technologies and equipment including new vehicles and advanced heating and cooling systems.

Some of the funding will also go towards improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

Albania will power ‘hundreds of thousands’ of home with solar energy

Sunny Albania is boosting its supply of solar energy with almost 235,000 new solar panels at the Karavasta power station on the edge of the Karavasta lagoon national park.

These will be connected to the country’s energy grid in the coming weeks.

In less than two years, the French-owned Voltalia company has built the largest solar-powered plant in the Western Balkans, where much of the region remains reliant on fossil fuels including coal.

Located on 200 hectares of land provided by the Albanian government, the plant will be able to generate 140 megawatts, powering hundreds of thousands of homes in the country of 2.8 million people.

Albania currently receives approximately 99 per cent of its electricity from hydroelectric power stations.

But with regular droughts and ramshackle energy infrastructure dating back to its communist era, the country has struggled to keep pace with break-neck development fuelled by the millions of tourists it welcomes annually.

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With the solar panels at Karavasta and 300 average days of sunshine a year, it’s hoped the country can ensure the stable production of power.

Although Albania promotes its green energy sector, the country produces around 650,000 tonnes of crude oil annually from dilapidated infrastructure that environmentalists have long criticised for the harm it wreaks on local communities.

But along its sun-drenched coastline, engineers say the terrain is ideal for solar parks.

Luca Anthouard, an engineer working on the project, says the salty, unfarmable tracts of land around Karavasta have enabled developers to build a project "on a grand scale by European standards".

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