The Macedonian industry largely depends on coal (especially lignite). 78% of the electricity is produced by coal. At the moment, the future of energy in this country is based on existing and potential reserves of this source. It is predicted that coal will maintain its strong position in the energy market up to 2020.
Macedonian coal is mainly lignite with a relatively low calorific value and a high content of moisture and ash, formed during the Pliocene and Miocene eras. It is estimated that lignite reserves amount to 2.7 billion tons. Most of this coal is used as fuel in power plants, the rest in industry and import.
Currently, lignite in Macedonia is mined only in opencast mines. However, new deposits are being researched and there are plans to open two underground mines: Zivojno and Mariovo.
In Macedonia, there is a feed-in tariff system for renewable energy. In the south of the country, there are also extensive wind farms. However, biomass is used very rarely, as it was not included in the country’s energy strategy.
Macedonia is a member of the Energy Community*, but the government does not comply with the agreements of the Treaty. The government officially supports the accession of Macedonia to the European Union, but, according to our interlocutors, it doesn’t do much in this matter. First, the government wants to focus on the country’s economic development in a way which does not entirely coincide with the policy of the EU (e.g. public support for the coal industry).
The government has a project to support 10 thousand PV panels, and, up to now, 300 installations have received support.
* The Energy Community – a community established between the European Union and East European and South-East European countries in order to extend the EU energy market.
Opencast lignite mines and power plants
All operating opencast mines were opened in the ’80s and most of them plan to be closed in 2020.
The biggest opencast mines in Macedonia are:
- Suvodol – the mine which supplies the largest power plant – REK Bitola. It is likely that in the near future the mine will be closed. It is also possible that in its vicinity, a new opencast mine will be opened;
- Brod-Gneotino – an active mine extracting lignite for the Bitola power plant. It plans to be in use for the next 20-25 years;
- Osłomej – a mine extracting coal with very low calorific value. In the near future, the mine should be closed.
The main facilities that produce electricity in Macedonia are two thermal power plants: REK Bitola, with a capacity of 725 MW, and REK Oslomej, with a capacity of 125 MW. REK Bitola is the main source of electricity in Macedonia. Its share of total domestic production is 70%. REK Oslomej is a much smaller power plant, which started production in 1980. It produces about 9% of total electricity production in Macedonia. Part of the lignite used in this power plant is imported from Kosovo, Greece and other countries.
These two power plants should be closed in the next few years. Although the Energy Development Strategy of the Republic of Macedonia until 2030 assumes that the Oslomej power station will generate electricity only until 2022, it is likely that it won’t be closed within this period. The Bitola 1 power plant is in a similar situation – the end of production was moved from 2021 to 2023.
In Macedonia, new lignite power plant projects are planned: Mariovo (with a new mine), Negotino , and also the expansion of the Bitola power plant. The Mariovo power plant currently does not have the necessary permits and documents needed for its construction. None of the investors is interested in this investment and the construction plans have been stopped.
A new draft of the energy strategy, created by the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (made on behalf of the Ministry of Economy) does not envisage the construction of any of these investments. The government does not currently have a specific approved energy policy. The strategy is not binding and the government does not apply its guidelines. There is no oppositiong within the government and this makes it very difficult to make important decisions for the country’s energy transformation. Because of the political difficulties, it is not easy for NGOs to cooperate with the authorities at the local level. These authorities do not support environmental projects. According to general opinion, the media in Macedonia are often controlled by the authorities.