Report on UPES annual Conference "Reforms in the Energy Sector"

At the very beginning, Dr. Branislava Lepotić Kovačević, President of UPES thanked the participants for attending the conference. She emphasized the importance of our members and key stakeholders getting together to discuss key topics, on the importance of energy law in all segments of the energy sector. In connection with the topic of the conference, she pointed out particularly the impact of CBAM and the challenges of just energy transition, in the complex geopolitical circumstances we are in today and against the backdrop of COP28 which is currently being held in Dubai.

The President of EFELA, Mr. Vicente Lopez-Ibor Mayor, joined the conference remotely having just returned to his home country from COP28. Mr. Lopez-Ibor Mayor relayed the messages from the global summit with examples of challenges that we are facing worldwide and expressing hope that the efforts made in EU countries and EFELA members will contribute to ensuring the security of energy supply in these hard times. He particularly praised the work of UPES in leading the conversation on just transition in the Western Balkans countries.

The attendees were also greeted by Mr. Ljubo Maćić, adviser to the Minister of the Mining and Energy of the Republic of Serbia who, on behalf of the Ministry of Energy, spoke of the challenges faced by particularly Serbia on its accession route to the EU and warned of the economic impact the application of CBAM would have on the country.

I Session – CBAM and its meaning and effects

Moderator: Ms. Anđelka Todorović, attorney-at-law, Partner with Wolf Theiss

The first keynote speaker in this session, the Deputy Director and Legal Counsel of the Energy Community Secretariat, Prof. Dirk Buschle, spoke about the current status and drivers of decarbonization efforts in the region. Prof. Buschle described CBAM as a wake-up call for GHG emissions and an expression of EU’s assertive politics. He emphasized that integrated markets require integrated carbon pricing solutions and asked whether they should be regional, common, or linked with the EU.

It made a great introduction into the presentation of the second keynote speaker, Senior Research Associate at the Florence School of Transnational Governance, Mr. Christian Egenhofer. Mr. Egenhofer compared and contrasted several approaches ranging from EU ETS through regional ETS to, ultimately, CBAM and stressed the need for the emission rights trading system to encourage emissions to abandon energy from coal in the Western Balkans. The presentation emphasized the need for political will and good planning for the achievement of a coal phase-out. A detailed paper by Mr. Christian Egenhofer was published a few days after the Conference and can be read here: -western-balkans/.Mr. Aleksandar Kovačević, renowned economist and expert on energy policy, reminded the attendees that the ultimate fight is for the right to clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a basic human right in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution that was discussed at last year’s UPES conference. He presented both ominous statistics and also the examples of incredible capacity of local companies to take charge and implement change even in the face of limited time and resources. Mr. Kovačević advocated for increasing the level of non-recourse project finance in the region and in the context of inclusion in the large and liquid EUETS market.

Finally, Ms. Gordana Lazarević, former assistant minister for planning and programming EU funds, delivered a well-rounded presentation on the status of EU accession and Serbia’s active participation in international organizations aimed at decarbonization and energy efficiency.

The closing remarks of this session were given by Ms. Jovana Bingulac, a lawyer at Petrikić Partneri AOD in cooperation with CMS, who efficiently summarized the lessons learned.

II Session – Elements of new market behaviour in legislation and practice

Moderator: Ms. Milica Pešterić, Partner at BD2P

The introductory speech of this session was delivered by keynote speaker Prof. Raphael Hefron from the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, who shared the main principles of a just transition and how we can together strive for a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. He shared several sources which the participants can use to expand their knowhow on the matter.

Mr. Tomaš Šumkas from ENTSO-E made an interesting presentation from the perspective of cybersecurity and explained some of the key challenges of the EU-wide Cybersecurity Network Code. 

The following presentation was delivered by Ms. Rozeta Karova, Senior Energy Lawyer at the Energy Community Secretariat. Ms. Karova gave the attendees a comprehensive overview of the terms and conditions for market coupling. Specifically, her speech focused on some of the practical difficulties, and the approached to overcome them, related to the coupling of the Energy Community electricity markets with the EU electricity market.

Then, Ms. Mira Todorović Simeonides, Partner in the Rokas Law Firm in Athens, presented the Greek example for providing access to the grid, the regulatory options and priorities granted to renewable energy sources. She also discussed challenges to the access to the electricity market, the adequacy of certain measures implemented by countries in the region, and the fairness and enforceability of such measures.  

The concluding remarks of this panel were presented by Mr. Milos Kuzman, Head of Energy and Environmental Law Group at NIS jsc Novi Sad and Vice President of UPES, who not only summarized the key messages of the panelists, but also echoed the message that we have all made amazing headway in the transition already. He emphasized that although this means that the road now becomes more difficult and more uncertain, it also makes optimism and cooperation of all participants all the more important.

The conference was then officially closed by Dr. Branislava Lepotić Kovačević, President of UPES, who thanked all panelists, moderators, participants and sponsors who took part in organizing the conference and pointed out that in terms of legal relations in the field of energy, the challenges that we heard about at the Conference and a lot of work by multi- professions experts to find a solution await us.

The report was prepared by: Anđelka Todorović, lawyer, Partner at Wolf Theiss