Neda Lazendić, Country Manager Windvision: Good Progress in Overall

Serbia is moving well in this direction, and wind plays the most crucial role in moving closer to the threshold in time

Windvision is an independent renewable energy supplier that operates in eight countries, among which is Serbia. Being a flexible player, with knowledge of every step in the chain of renewable energy projects, they are perfectly suited to embrace highly innovative challenges. At the same time, they are committed to delivering clean and safe energy.
The Netherlands is known for windmills and renewable energy investment. How much Serbia is lagging behind?

— Indeed, The Netherlands has a substantial amount of wind projects that secure close to 4.500 MW of electrical energy annually. With about 3.000 turbines across the country, located mostly offshore, the wind power sector manages to provide the answer to about 10%  of the market demand for electricity. In Serbia, we are still far behind these numbers, but at least we have got first wind parks in place and operation. Windvision yet has not started with the installation works within the two main projects, but we do hope to be able to start with implementation as soon as the new legislative framework gets adopted. We are glad that the Government regularly consults with large IFIs such as EBRD, IFC, and EIB as we, the developers, will most likely be looking into the financing opportunities within these financial institutions. In our business, the bankability of substantial and long-term projects is crucial. This is why we support the efforts of the Government to work on the solution together with the IFIs and the industry together. Serbia needs to intensify its efforts to move from feed-in tariffs to feed-in premium support schemes, as well as to ensure transparent procedures for the connection of renewable energy producers to the grid in the framework of an auction-based program.
What are the main conditions a state should secure to draw investments in the sector of renewable energy sources and are incentives crucial for this?

— Compared to running, our business is to be seen as a marathon rather than a sprint race. In other words, both development and operations are long-term activities. We need to make sure various technical, legal, macroeconomic, and political conditions are met before we even consider investing. While we can well control the technical side of the project, we would still like to have a somewhat better regulatory setting. We understand that the Government is very cautious in expanding the room for the new wind projects, but we also need to have some predictability when it comes to legislative developments. In general, in our business, one needs to have legal predictability and certainty to move on, and we hope the new framework for wind energy will be adopted soon.

By 2020, Serbia should increase stake of REI in final consumption to 27%. In your opinion, are there capacities for our country to fulfill this object?

— Serbia is moving well in this direction, and wind plays the most crucial role in moving closer to the threshold in time. Despite the right trends, it seems the country is still below the trajectory. The latest figures from 2017 indicated that we were at about 20% instead of 23% at that moment, so I believe Serbia needs to speed up if wants to be ready to meet the targets in time. The good thing with the wind is that the modern technology nowadays allows just one wind turbine to be as effective as  7-10 small hydropower plants, and not to mention the overall environmental impact associated with the small hydro. The wind sector expansion will thus have the best potential to help Serbia meet the targets quickly.
How much could, according to your estimation, Serbia have energy generated from wind?

— At the moment we have 475 MW of wind projects under construction or already operating. It is just under the cap of 500 MW set by the Government under the existing feed-in tariff system. However, having in mind the potentials Serbia could easily have even the double capacity if the new framework proves to be commercially viable.

You are one of the board members of the Dutch-Serbian Business Association. Could you tell us more about the organization and its mission?

— Yes, that is true. And I feel privileged to be in such a club representing my company but also the interests of the Dutch business community as a whole. While we are an association that is probably the youngest trade association in the country, we gather important companies for the Serbian economy. Our idea with the association is to be able to promote the Dutch business culture, business ethics, strong commitment to CSR, and sustainability and importance of the public-private dialogue. We believe that the consultation process between us, businesses, and the Government will contribute to a higher quality of regulations and lower the compliance costs wherever possible. We are committed to cooperating with other business associations and most importantly, The Embassy of The Netherlands and its economic and agricultural departments. In my view, we need even more joint work and associations within our economy as this is probably the best way to promote your business and advocate for regulatory improvements.

Do you believe Serbia is an attractive destination to the new Dutch investors, especially compared to the region?

— The business climate depends on various factors. Serbia can still offer very competitive costs of labor, a smooth construction permits procedure, and multiple incentives related to tax and contribution payments. It suggests that it is a perfect choice for production businesses. On the other hand, it would be beneficial to see a higher degree of judicial efficiency, protection of property rights, and even a stronger commitment to EU standards. It would make it easier for larger companies to think of Serbia as a home for their companies and development centers. What I, in particular, want to compliment is the good progress in overall digitalization of the society. It is crucial if we’re going to keep and support the growth of all business, especially the ICT sector.

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