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European renewable energy investment ‘uneven’

Central and Eastern European countries have differing energy situations and vary in potential for progress


Pete Carvill

A report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) says that while there has been unprecedented growth in renewable electricity over the last four years, public and private investment has been ‘uneven’ across the continent.

The 168-page document, which is available here, is titled the UNECE Renewable Energy Status Report and reviews the progress made across 17 member countries, plus Kosovo, in harnessing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency.

The authors wrote: “Investment in renewables in the focus countries has been uneven. Regional renewable energy investment declined between 2013 and 2016, to $2.7bn, and then returned to the 2013 level of $7.2bn in 2018, contributing around 2.2% of the global total that year. Ukraine ranked 18th and the Russian Federation ranked 22nd among leading renewable energy investors globally in 2018. In 2019, both countries moved up in the ranking (to 17th and 20th respectively), and Kazakhstan entered the top 30 list at the 28th rank.”

While development finance, multilateral development banks, and international climate finance are, write the authors, important sources of investment in region, there has also been a correlation in the trend for accessing financing through capital markets by the issuance of climate and green bonds.

The authors wrote: “Of the seven countries worldwide that started issuing green bonds in 2020, three were from the focus region: Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. The issuers were financial sector institutions based in Armenia and Kazakhstan and non-financial corporates based in Georgia. Several issuers in the Russian Federation also have issued green bonds since 2018, including a financial sector institution, a state-owned enterprise, and a municipality of Moscow. Cumulatively, green bonds helped raise $658m for environmental projects in these four countries in 2020.”

The nations included within the report are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Russian Federation.

The report’s authors write: “These countries have differing energy situations and vary in their potential for and progress in renewables and energy efficiency. Nearly all of the countries have large potential to deploy solar, wind, hydropower and/or bioenergy, yet most remain heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The average share of renewables in total final energy consumption in the focus region in 2019 was 18.2%, a share that has not changed measurably since 2014.”

They add: “Nevertheless, the region has made substantial progress in renewables. Between 2017 and 2021, the focus countries added an estimated more than 20 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power, to reach a total installed capacity of more than 100 GW. Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and Kazakhstan ranked among the world’s top 30 renewable energy investors in 2019.

“The region also has made great strides in reducing energy intensity, although levels remain higher than in member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Overall, the UNECE region continues to face critical energy challenges, thereby representing an opportunity to transition to sustainable and resilient energy systems, well-functioning energy markets, and stable and secure energy supplies.”