“We expect a harsh winter”
by Visar Azemi, GIZ/EUKI
Visar Azemi is the Executive Director at Balkan Green Foundation, partner organisation for the EUKI project Green Rural Deal in Kosovo. His engagements are focused on elevating the debate on sustainable development in the Western Balkans with a focus on renewable energy development, energy market integration and circular economy. We met him at the EUKI conference 2022 on 20 September in Berlin.
Mr. Azemi what’s your impression of the conference?
Visar Azemi: It was my 1st time attending the EUKI conference and I am very happy to be here with you all and learn more about EUKI and German Government’s engagement in shifting the narrative towards the energy transition. I am impressed by the discussions as well as by the messages we received from the Ministry (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, BMWK). I hope that the German government will remain committed in the Western Balkans for a long time. As we are aspiring to join the EU, this engagement is of immense importance as a preparatory effort for EU accession.
How is the energy crisis influencing your home country Kosovo? How is it coping with the consequences?
Visar Azemi: Our country depends on the energy production that comes from lignite-fired power plants that have exceeded their lifespan and are very polluting. The fact is that the baseload capacity and the peaking demand for energy are in disproportion, so we are not producing enough energy to fulfill the peak demand. During wintertime, consumption doubles. People use electricity for heating purposes and the need for thermal energy increases immensely. We are working to fill in the gap with renewables, but we are still far away.
Since we are not able to provide enough energy with our domestic production, we will either have to import electricity with these rocket-high prices or face blackouts. The government institutions have not proposed any practical steps to face the energy crisis, nor to provide any tangible solutions for thermal energy. So, with the rising energy prices, we expect a harsh winter.
What challenges are you and your organisation (Balkan Green Foundation) facing because of the energy crisis?
Visar Azemi: The problem we are facing during the winter months is with thermal energy, since people use electricity for heating purposes. The price of wood pellets has increased to more than double and there were no actions taken by the government institutions to provide incentives to use heat pumps or other alternatives, so people can afford them. The only heating option for many households would be electricity, which will drain the energy system and inevitably create troubles.
As part of the project Green Rural Deal you enable residents of rural Kosovo to co-create projects, tools, and instruments that support the sustainable development of their home regions.
Visar Azemi: We are happy that we were able to link the political context with what’s happening on around the world in terms of sustainable development. We selected a rural area in Kosovo, which is sort of abandoned and far away from the capital city. We saw a good spirit of the previous mayor who wanted to do something above and beyond his mandate. Shaping policies towards the green agenda and investments in renewables was something remarkable.
How would you assess the EUKI funding, implementation, and networking experience compared to other funding instruments you know?
Visar Azemi: EUKI is playing an important role by empowering organizations to accelerate climate action. The empowerment and the ownership which remains with the local communities or organizations is very important. In the past we had lots of money delivered in the Western Balkan region, but the agenda was driven by the donors. Now the case is, that we, together with EUKI and the local organizations are forming the agenda, making sure that the money is being used in the right place and for the right purposes.
Mr. Azemi, thank you very much for this interview.
 Pellets are often used from households as an efficient mean of heating