How to go solar in Serbia

EBRD credit line and EU, Austria and WBIF grants promote energy efficiency

With many sunny days, Serbia has great potential for solar energy. However, the use of solar power in residential buildings and individual houses is still in its early stages. The country’s recently adopted energy laws, combined with the lower costs of solar technology, raise expectations that this may soon change.

“I decided to invest in solar panels because I wanted to be as energy independent as possible, and also to contribute to reducing air pollution in my city,” says Nikola Radjenovic, who lives in Batajnica, a community at the outskirts of Belgrade.

When Mr Radjenovic was looking for ways to finance his green investment he soon found the Green Energy Finance Facility (GEFF), a programme by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) offering loans and grants to citizens for investments in the renovation of their homes.

Mr Radjenovic points out that solar panels cover almost all household needs and that electricity can be produced throughout the year. According to his experience, especially from March to November sufficient amounts of energy can be generated to secure the supply of an average household.

In addition to supply security, a major concern of possible investors is cost. Here too Mr Radjenovic offers reassurance: He took a €9,000 loan for his investment in solar panels of which €1,600 was a grant. His plan is to repay the loan in 7-10 years.

EBRD GEFF loans are currently available in Serbia at UniCredit Bank and Erste Bank. To date, more than 2,000 households have used this ooffer. The most common investments are the replacement of windows and doors, heating boilers and thermal insulation. Interest in solar panels has been growing strongly recently.

Telefon Inženjering, a company specialised in the design and construction of solar power plants, explains that the average household in Serbia needs power supply of five to 10 kW, which can be installed in a few days, while repayment through cost reduction can be achieved within 5-7 years.

Although energy improvements contribute to significant reductions in energy consumption and long-term electricity and heating costs, upfront costs can still constitute a serious obstacle. To help homeowners invest in green solutions, the EBRD provides loans, while the European Union, Austria and bilateral donors to the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) provide technical assistance and grants.

To date, through the GEFF programme over 7,000 households in the Western Balkans have invested about €40 million energy efficiency improvements. These investments translate into savings of over 31 million kWh of energy and over 11,200 tons of CO2 emissions per year, equivalent to removing more than 6,000 cars from the road.