- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- All Balkan Countries
The government, supported by the World Bank, has embarked on an energy strategy which fails to consider renewable sources and will result in rising bills.
Just a few years ago, my fellow Kosovars and I had to wait up to eight hours in the dark, in order to have two full hours of supply with electricity. Power cuts were so severe, that it became impossible to simply survive the day, let alone work or plan to conduct business.
As a young country, we could not produce enough electricity, we couldn’t afford to buy much, and our network was so old that even if we had the power, we were unable to distribute it.
The state we had reached then was so desperate that any of us would be willing to give up anything, just so we could have regular power supply. And this state of despair, carved deep in our memories, is exactly what the Kosovo Government and its international partners are using today, while trying to push for the privatisation of energy sector in Kosovo, and construction of a new coal-burning power plant.
This, claim the government officials, will secure enough energy for Kosovo, helping the new country to revitalise its virtually inexistent economy. The same officials claim the new plant will fight the bad percentages, namely the 45 per cent of unemployment and the 15 per cent of extreme poverty.
Thus, in 2009, they enacted the Kosovo Energy Strategy, a policy that would be more appropriate to call the “Coal Burning Strategy”, as it gives a cursory mention to other sources of energy while focusing on only coal.
The despair, however, didn’t stop Kosovo’s civil society from scrutinising the government’s plan in the energy sector. Preliminary findings show that this strategy, especially the way it’s being implemented, is likely to leave hundreds of people unemployed and another few hundred resettled from their homes.
The current project, if it will be implemented, will damage Kosovo’s already scarce water resources, will emit more CO2 in the air, and will increase the prices of electricity for the people who already can’t afford to pay.
The idea of a new power plant in Kosovo is as old as the need for energy.
A new plant would make it possible for authorities to shut down the Kosovo A power plant, which was constructed in early sixties and remains the greatest polluter not only in Kosovo but also in the region.
There is not a single person in Kosovo who would be against closing this old plant down. But the idea to build a new plant so we could close another is both ironic and wrong.
Currently, Kosovo has a peak consumption of energy of 1200MWh.
According to government documents, half of this energy is lost.
The loss can be commercial, which means people stealing the energy and not paying for it, or technical, meaning the power is lost in a very weak distribution network. The tolerated percentage for such losses should be 7 to 8 per cent. If Kosovo reduced the loss to the tolerated quota, we would be able to close down the Kosovo A plant immediately, without having to build a new one.
Furthermore, most of this power is spent during the winter. It is used to heat hundreds of thousands of Kosovo homes, most of which have no proper insulation. Investing in alternative sources for heating and in a nation-wide programme in retrofits of housing, would not only bring the expenses further down, but it could easily create thousands of new jobs, which are so much needed in Kosovo.
Of course, a growing economy means a growing need for power.
This is why my colleagues and I are not against the power plant idea per se, as the current demand may increase very soon. On the other hand, the authorities have done very little, if anything, when it comes to exploring renewable energy sources in Kosovo.
Partial studies show solid wind potential. Having 300 sunny days a year gives us space to think of the idea of solar energy that was never explored. Neither was the geothermal potential.
“But why should we care about renewables? Kosovo is a small country and can’t really affect global warming. We have the third biggest reserve of lignite coal just a few meters under our soil, so why shouldn’t we just burn it? It shouldn’t matter that our lignite mines are horizontal and superficial, and that we will destroy a good portion of agricultural land to exploit this coal.
Why should we care about the resettlement, when the people who will have to leave their homes will be paid in cash and they can go and live elsewhere? We shouldn’t care about the water either.” This is the dominant logic of the Kosovo government and it’s wrong.
But it’s not only the government who is enforcing this way of thinking.
They are strongly backed by their international partners, such as the World Bank, an institution that was involved in the project from the very beginning. Millions of dollars, coming from world taxpayers were spent on technical support to this project via the World Bank.
It would have been much more useful if this money would have been allocated to the exploration of alternative energy sources and not to pay different experts, advisors and officials, who wanted sponsor another coal plant.
During all these years, all the transaction, studies and preliminary project work was done in a very non-transparent way. Media and representatives of the civil society were going from government offices to the World Bank, back and forth, while the two institutions were bouncing the responsibility to share information between each other.
After years of technical support, the Bank’s job now remains to provide a guarantee for a private investor who will build a 600 megawatt capacity plant, and to whom the Government decided to give the existing Kosovo B plant with generation capacities of 600MW for free.
This decision of the government is not only economically absurd it will also creates a monopoly for a private investor, which will obviously result in increasing electricity bills for the people of Kosovo.
If we add to this monopoly the fact that it will be Kosovo citizens who will pay for the construction cost of this plant, as well as for all the cost regarding CO2 emissions, the result is quite simple.
Kosovars will pay more money for the same energy they will use.
The new plant will employ 200 to 300 people, while thousands who currently work in the old ones will remain jobless. The environment, including the land, water and the air, will continue to be destroyed.
If all this isn’t a good enough reason not to rush in implementing this project in this form, then our future is. As a young country aspiring accession to the European Union, Kosovo cannot allow itself to invest in a plant which will run for 40 year and will not be in accordance with EU standards.
The plan, as it is, is not in accordance with Acquis on Environment and Acquis on Competition. This is not to mention the EU’s target to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 per cent, decrease energy consumption by 20 per cent and reach 20 per cent of renewable energy in total energy consumption.
If Kosovo really needs more energy and must build a new power plant and burn its lignite coal, then I would say we should.
But not before we are sure we need to do that. Not before decreasing the energy loss, increasing the energy efficiency and definitely not before considering all alternative energy potential that we have.
Krenar Gashi is executive director of KIPRED.
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