Exploiting more solar energy in South-Eastern European Countries

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9 July 2024

Current North Macedonian context and SUNRISE project implementation challenges 

North Macedonia, as a country aspiring for EU membership, harmonizes strategic documents at national and local level, aligned with three strategic courses of action: 

  • intensive measures for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources (excluding coal) to fully cover the production of primary energy in the country,
  • energy transition which leads to the creation of more than 11.000 new green jobs, and
  • reduction of GHG 42% until 2040 compared to 2017.

These strategic general determinations should be integrated into the national strategic documents, action plans, laws and by-laws as well as Local Government Units (LGU) programs. A large part of the strategic documents is written according to top-down methodologies, without detailed knowledge and data of real consumers at basic level. Due to various reasons, such as technical knowledge, administrative processes or lack of finance, at times, some citizens can face difficulties to introduce renewable energy sources (RES) in their households. The residential buildings which, according to the European practice, implement measures for EE and RES are incentivized with national programs and budget, while in Macedonia this is left only at the level of local self-government and the residents themselves.

Therefore, couple of projects regarding utilization of solar energy in households are being implemented in the country. One of them is the SUNRISE project, financed by EUKI and implemented by Habitat for Humanity Macedonia (HFHM) in North Macedonia. The project is focused on Multi-Family- Apartment- Buildings (MFABs). There are installations of 4 plug-in PV systems foreseen, 2 intended for the common space in 2 different buildings, and 2 will be installed in 2 separate apartments. 

Steps and challenges of the implementation of SUNRISE project in North Macedonia

HFHM tries to layout, point out and recommend solutions to the challenges that one household in a MFAB can face when installing a plug-in PV system and challenges that HFHM faces during the project implementation. So far, the challenges are:

  • legislative barriers,
  • costs for permits and projects adding up higher than the plug-in PV system itself,
  • need for changing the electricity meter, and
  • finding suitable building and apartment for pilot project.

In North Macedonia every PV installation needs a project for architecture, statics and electricity from private company, an application for the permit of installing the PV and for the change of meters by the distribution company/grid operator, an application for deployment of the PV and a written notice about the PV installation sent to the municipality.

According to the EU directive 206/632 on energy end-use efficiency and energy services, all PV systems that have installed capacity of 0,8 kW or below are not considered significant for the grid and the utility circuit, so nor upfront registration with the grid operator, nor municipal permit would be needed. However, the North Macedonian by-law Rulebook on renewable energy sources oblige every prosumer to register their system and start a process for PV system installation.

PV installation faces many difficulties

The start of the process for PV installation permit begins with basic project preparation including architectural and electric schemes of the building/ apartment. When it comes to connecting the PVs on the common meter of the building (measuring common lightning, elevators and pumps) basic project of the whole building architecture and electric circuit is needed, and when a particular apartment is in question, then again basic project for the whole building architecture and scheme of the electric circuit of the apartment is needed. In many cases the costs of the project surpass the costs of the plug-in PV system itself, making the whole investment unfavorable. 

In addition to the permit for installation of PV, in parallel a process for changing the meters needs to take place. In general, all meters by default are one-way meters. For using the full capacity of a plug-in PV system, and implementing the concept of prosumers, two-way meters are needed. 

However, in the Rulebook of RES, it is stated that installed RES capacities for electricity production up to 6 kW need to be registered, without indicating the starting margin, which gives a bit free space for interpretation. When a plug-in PV system has integrated smart microinverter that communicates and coordinates the current energy consumption and energy production, technically change of meter won´t be needed. In this case the household is not feeding the public electric grid with exes of the produced energy, so it is not considered as prosumer, meaning no additional projects needed. However, legally this is still a grey area.

Photo: The Housing Initiative for Eastern Europe (IWO)

Last, but not the least, the selection of buildings and apartments has to be done carefully. In the framework of the project, this process takes into account three aspects: technical, societal and the willingness of residents to cooperate. The selection of the buildings and apartments is done with close cooperation with the piloting municipalities Karposh and Bitola, as well as with building management companies. Experience shows that the bigger buildings are keener on cooperation, comprising different societal level, but technically are challenging for implementation (the project preparation is more complicated, with a lot of sockets and nodes, one building can have multiple meters with different purposes, or different levels of the connecting power on the grid, challenge in matching the right power outlet with the meter etc.). In ideal case the apartment in which the plug-in PV system would be in the same building as the plug-in PV system connects to the common meter since no additional architectural project will be needed. However, this can cause some discomfort among the neighbours in the building that are homeowners in most of the cases and are in charge of the common spaces and utilities together. 

Outlook

Overall, the solar potential in North Macedonia is far greater than in many countries in the EU, but the degree of utilization according to installed capacities is far lower. The SUNRISE project seeks to fill in this gap, by supporting the tenants in MFABs, and tries to influence the general policies by lobbying for fewer rules when it comes to plug-in PV systems and their broader usage.

Cover photo: The Housing Initiative for Eastern Europe (IWO)

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This project is part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI). EUKI is a project funding instrument of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK). The EUKI competition for project ideas is run by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). The overall objective of EUKI is to promote climate cooperation within the European Union (EU) in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. www.euki.de/en
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