This post is the last in a series of reports concerning stakeholder workshops that were undertaken as part of the EVALUATE project. Following on from workshops in Prague, Budapest and Gdansk, we summarise the results of the most recent workshop in Skopje.
In conjunction with the Centre for environmental research and information “Eko-svest”, the University of Manchester hosted a workshop titled ‘Energy poverty in Macedonia and Europe: New knowledge and solutions’ on 11th September 2015 in Skopje. Approximately 30 key stakeholders with an interest in various aspects of energy poverty took part in the event. The purpose of the workshop was to share preliminary findings from the EVALUATE project, as well as to hear from national and local organisations that are working on energy vulnerability issues in Macedonia.
After a short press conference with national and local media outlets, the workshop began with a presentation by Professor Stefan Bouzarovski (director of EVALUATE from the University of Manchester), who outlined the EVALUATE project, and provided an introduction to the concepts of energy poverty and energy vulnerability. Stefan noted that there has been a rapid change in awareness concerning energy poverty, with the concept previously unheard of in Macedonia, but the level of attendance at the workshop demonstrated interest.
Following on from this introduction, Saska Petrova (EVALUATE researcher at the University of Manchester) then discussed approaches to overcoming energy vulnerability, referring to issues of energy degradation and the need to increase the flexibility of energy carrier choice. Sergio Tirado Herrero (EVALUATE researcher at the University of Manchester) then provided a national overview of energy poverty in Macedonia and other countries in the Balkans, noting the high levels of incidence. The subsequent presentation by Harriet Thomson (EVALUATE researcher at the University of Manchester) introduced the EVALUATE household survey in Skopje, with a description of the two case study districts followed by an explanation of key results. The results demonstrated that energy vulnerability is a significant issue across both locations in Skopje, with a high proportion of households spending 30% or more of income on energy costs. Around 60% of households in Chair, Skopje Sever, Zhelezara stated they were unable to afford to keep their home adequately warm, whilst in Bunjakovec/Debar Maalo the figure was around 30% of households.
After lunch, the event featured a presentation by Nevena Smilevska (project coordinator at “Eko-svest”) on the Republic of Macedonia’s energy strategy, which highlighted the substantial health costs resulting from polluting power plants. Nevena presented several potential energy scenarios for Macedonia, ranging from status quo investment in fossil fuel sources, through to an ambitious renewable energy dominant scenario.
Subsequently Sonja Zuber (from Analytica) talked about corruption in the Macedonian energy sector. This presentation highlighted the methodological difficulties associated with identifying and measuring corruption, with Analytica opting to determine the transparency of proceedings using publicly available documents. Their research found that there is limited transparency in the energy sector, which is compounded by regulatory bodies having limited power and resources for investigating and pursuing corruption.
Biljana Dukovska (from the Macedonian Anti-Poverty Platform) delivered the last presentation of the event, discussing the day-to-day realities of energy poverty amongst vulnerable users of social welfare. Biljana’s presentation detailed the very low living standards in most vulnerable households, and argued that affected households need urgent support so they can achieve dignified living standards. This talk also noted that vulnerable consumers are rarely invited to participate in consultations on energy poverty measures.
Throughout the workshop there were opportunities for plenary discussions, which reinforced that energy poverty is a relatively new term in Macedonia, but is a phenomenon that stakeholders are seeing on a regular basis. Participants were positive about the EVALUATE project as it sheds light on the nature of energy vulnerability in the region. Some researchers questioned the validity of data and trends issued by the national statistical office, and so welcomed the new data produced by EVALUATE. At times the discussions and debates were quite lively, particularly in relation to corruption in the energy sector.
The workshop received extensive media coverage across a number of Macedonian TV stations and internet portals, as evidenced by the following news stories (in Macedonian only):
Енергетска ефикасност за помала енергетска сиромаштија (includes video footage)