In the Western Balkans (W-B) region (including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia), biomass is by far the most important renewable energy source used for heating, covering 42% of the heat demand. However, inefficient and leaky stoves that produce high levels of indoor pollution are used in more than 1.9 million buildings (one-fourth of total building stock), while 24% of buildings use mainly uncertified small HOBs fueled with logwood. Given these considerations, there is a clear need and opportunity to make biomass-based heating more efficient and sustainable through the promotion of modern biomass heating technologies and fuels (such as efficient stoves, furnaces, boilers, wood chips and wood pellets vs. illegally logged firewood), and a large potential for an increase in efficiency and reduction in health-damaging pollutants.
One among the main causes of inefficiency is that firewood is usually stored for a short period of time and is combusted when it still has a high moisture content. Furthermore, the promotion of clean and efficient biomass heating solutions can contribute to the private sector development (stove manufacturers, suppliers, support services), micro-financing (consumer financing) and sustainable forestry.
With the support of the Energy Community Secretariat, the World Bank completed the “Sector Study on Biomass-based heating in the Western Balkans.” The study aimed to help the W-B countries—Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia—identify viable investment options and policy measures to increase the use of biomass for heating in a sustainable manner. The project was financed by the Joint Grant Facility under the Western Balkans Investments Framework (WBIF).
A comprehensive roadmap to further improve regulatory, policy and other framework conditions, increase the volume of sustainable biomass supply and improve the availability of, and investments in efficient bio-based heating technologies has been prepared, aiming to provide guidance for policy and financing in the short-term (until 2020), and medium to long-term (until 2030). It includes a set of concrete and interrelated activities that will facilitate the removal of barriers and improvement of the regulatory, policy and other framework conditions in the region, thus enabling making more efficient and scaling up the biomass-based heating in the W-B region.
As a cross-cutting agenda, the scale-up of efficient biomass-based heating will require all these actors to become aware of the challenges and solutions. Awareness across stakeholder groups in the W-B (including e.g. government agencies, private sector/ manufacturers/ suppliers, CSOs active in the field of forestry, agriculture, and biomass use, and final consumers) regarding policy, supply, and demand for cost competitive - effective and energy-efficient biomass technologies as well as related benefits is low and hindered by the lack of credible information sources.
Regional demand for certified biomass heating appliances is hindered by buyers’ low awareness of the benefits of certification and efficiency of appliances. It is also influenced by a lack of effective support mechanisms (e.g. micro-financing, post-sales support, sustainable fuel supply etc.), appropriate legislation, as well as high prices for efficient heating appliances. Awareness raising activities can help understanding the existing specific barriers, which is often the first step to overcome them, and to mobilize support for possible solutions.
To this end, with the support of the Energy Community Secretariat, the World Bank initiated the project "Public Awareness Raising on Biomass-based Heating in the Western Balkans – Preparation of Awareness Raising Materials, Plans and Conducting of Awareness Raising Roundtable", funded by the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF).
Key objectives of this project are:
a) To develop a consumer awareness material package (web site, printed materials - posters, leaflets, etc.) in order to help build consumers’ confidence in efficient biomass-heating appliances and to raise awareness about their use and significant socio-economic benefits (health, savings, environment, etc.), costs and financing sources.
b) To develop information materials that can be used for information and awareness-raising of decision makers at the policy level, and to promote and motivate policy decision making and implementation. These materials should encourage governments and donor partners to take actions in order to promote a market for sustainable and efficient biomass-based heating solutions
c) To develop educational materials that can be used for information and educational purposes for NGO/advocacy groups and private sector actors (manufacturers, suppliers and other service providers) in order to increase their capacities to disseminate the benefits of the biomass fuels to consumers.