A World Bank report finds that the energy sector in Macedonia is badly outdated, with costly electricity imports, damaging to the forests and causing high levels of air pollution.

The report notes that only 9 percent of all households use central heating – all of them in the capital Skopje. Some 64 percent of use wood for heating, which causes serious environmental issues. The remaining 25 percent rely on electricity to keep warm during the winter, and even this is seen as harmful because it is very inefficient and creates a spike in energy imports during the winter.

Still, using wood for heating, and especially wood from the widespread black market, can devastate Macedonia’s forests, the report warns.

Skopje’s central heating system uses gas to fire up water boilers, and it’s expanding, but has still barely reached the number of consumers it had in 2006. Whole swathes of the city have been left without access to the network, and others are very slow in expanding it. Increasing the number of households that use central heating is seen as one way to reduce the horrific air pollution levels in the capital and Parliament is looking into ways to prevent users of this service from unplugging.