It seems that we have never had as many doubts about energy supply as we have this winter. Worrying about whether our homes will be warm during cold days opened up the topic of energy saving, which prompted us to think about how energy efficient our homes are and how important that is in times of crisis.
We spoke with Aleksandar Macura, co-founder and programme director of the RES Foundation, about the ongoing energy issues, including energy transition and energy poverty.
EP: Energy efficiency, it seems, is on everybody’s lips, but how much do we really know about it?
Aleksandar Macura: Recently, there has been an increase in awareness of the importance of energy efficiency. A certain increase in knowledge accompanies this, but the room for improvement is still ample for both professional and ordinary people. As energy efficiency and its importance are both complex and multidisciplinary, education requires time and engagement from professionals, media, civil society organizations and others. The role of professionals is the most important, and their ethics is crucial. Every concrete investment in energy efficiency in the public and private sectors are, at the same time, educational activity. It is important to significantly reduce the number of professional violations in the creation and implementation of these measures.
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EP: How important is it to save energy and use it most efficiently?
Aleksandar Macura: Serbia doesn’t have above-average natural resources that facilitate the supply of energy at low prices and the economy’s competitiveness. At the same time, the population’s living standard cannot be developed based on low energy prices in the long term. Our energy mix is also relatively “dirty” because of the resources we use and how we use them. Therefore, improving energy efficiency is, in my opinion, a key development direction for our country. In Serbia, energy efficiency is not observed appropriately, although some progress is visible.
EP: Like all of Europe, Serbia feels the consequences of the energy crisis. Who was most affected by this energy crisis?
Aleksandar Macura: The mismanaged sector, burdened with various deficiencies in the way it is organized, has received a strong external blow. Society, quite expectedly, was unprepared to deal with it. Thanks to various factors, there have been no major consequences for the security of supply so far. The prices of energy and energy products for businesses have increased significantly, and those who consume energy most inefficiently are the most affected.
Taxpayers are also taking a big hit because, according to established practice, the cost of the crisis was passed on to them. Even before the crisis, the operations of parts of the energy sector were paid for by taxpayers. This has been especially true recently for the gas sector, where costs are almost regularly socialized.
EP: Serbia defined the concept of energy poverty, but who are the most vulnerable population segments in our country today?
Aleksandar Macura: The definition establishes a framework for creating and implementing policies to reduce energy poverty. However, the very definition of energy poverty does not help us reach the specific people with a problem. To do this, it is necessary to collaborate with social welfare institutions. This has already been accomplished in some local governments. On the other hand, for years, Serbia has had a mechanism in place, thanks to which several tens of thousands of households received help by having part of their electricity bills paid. Amendments to the Regulation on energy-vulnerable customers have created prerequisites for more people to be on the receiving end of this help. Certainly, this assistance does not permanently improve the position of households since it does not affect energy efficiency in how energy is consumed in those homes.
The need to help hundreds of thousands of households that use firewood for heating, which has become significantly more expensive and to improve the efficiency of its use by giving away more efficient heating devices is still completely unfilled.
Interviewed by: Milica Radičević
Read the story in the new issue of the Energy portal Magazine ENERGETIC EFFICIENCY