Why Isn’t Albania Cashing in on Renewable Energy?
In this impoverished, struggling country, there is wealth lying just about everywhere you look, and yet no one is earning a cent from it. Even the most obvious no-brainer - solar thermal energy - is found on rooftops only sporadically in the north and not at all in the south. The contrast to Italy and Greece, where rooftop solar thermal systems are common, is glaring.
Albanians aren't completely oblivious to this largesse. Hydropower already covers 20 per cent of their electricity consumption and constitutes nearly 97 per cent of domestically generated electricity.
When the power plants are not operational, which is well over half the year, at times of low precipitation, Albania imports power prodigiously and at great cost from neighbors with coal-fired capacity. Not surprisingly, when Albanians think of adding more renewable energy to their portfolio, they think of more hydro.
But damming the last pristine rivers of Europe, such as the spectacular Vjosa River, is no solution. Albania needs energy sources that provide it with power when hydro plants are not operational.
The answer is solar, wind, and geothermal power, all of which can even be stored at high altitudes in Albania with pumped-water storage systems. Indeed, Albania is made for renewable energy.
I was perplexed with this unsatisfactory state of affairs when I beat a path to Albania's Ministry of Environment. An official, Zamir Dedej, agreed to meet me - I had no such luck in Serbia where a bevy of my emails were completely ignored.
He said he was all for renewables but that Albania wasn't ready yet for the likes of solar PV systems and wind turbines. For one, he said, they're too expensive. Second, Albania's transmission grid is so antiquated that it cannot...