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Kosova e Re lignite power plant, Kosovo

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Kosovo currently wastes the majority of the electricity it produces in its two filthy lignite plants: 37 percent is lost through technical losses and theft and another 30 percent is wasted through lack of energy efficiency measures. Yet the Kosovo government, heavily backed by the US government and World Bank, plans to build a new 600 MW lignite plant, Kosova e Re or New Kosovo.

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The Kosovo A power plant near Prishtina (Original image by Andreas Welch - Creative Commons)

Plans to build a new coal plant close to capital Prishtina have been around for over a decade, starting out as a planned 2000 MW unit that would turn the country into the leading energy exporter for the Balkans. Yet, lack of investors and resistance to a massive lignite project in a country that already has the highest single point-source of carbon emissions in Europe have gradually diminished ambitions. Today, Kosova e Re is planned to have a capacity of 600 MW, costing around USD 2 billion, and it is being heavily promoted by the World Bank and by the US. Since Kosovo became a member of the EBRD in December 2012 the bank has also indicated its interest in the project.

Civil society groups in Kosovo, led by the Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID) oppose the construction of a new power plant for the following reasons:

1. It is unnecessary. Reducing electricity losses and investing in efficiency and alternatives are cheaper and create more jobs.

While the plant is being depicted as necessary to ensure the country’s energy security, up to 30 percent of available electricity in Kosovo today is wasted according to official data, because of lack of energy efficiency programmes. This adds to the 37 percent of electricity losses (of which around 17 percent are technical and a result of an old grid and the other are commercial losses, i.e. theft). Daniel Kammen, Professor at the University of California in Berkeley and former World Bank ‘Clean Energy Czar”, has shown (pdf) that Kosovo has renewable energy capacities that could deliver 34 percent of energy demand by 2025, while providing over 60 percent more jobs than a business as usual path, with estimated cost savings of 5-50% relative to a scenario that includes a new coal power plant. If energy efficiency programmes are put in place, losses are curbed, renewable energy is developed, and the existing Kosovo B plant is rehabilitated, the study finds, there is no need for a costly new plant.

2. High costs

Building Kosova e Re would require Kosovo consumers (or the government) to service over a billion euro in debt (Source (pdf)) at a time when they are also servicing debt for improvements in the Sibovc mine, Kosovo’s wasteful transmission and distribution systems, and refurbishment of Kosovo B.

In recent months there have already been several protests in Kosovo about rising electricity prices, and a new coal plant would only increase prices further.

3. Damage to health

Kosovo currently has 835 early deaths per year and estimated direct costs of around EUR 100 million annually due to air pollution, of which the lignite plants are responsible for a substantial proportion. (Source: World Bank (pdf))

However, far from solving this problem, a new lignite plant would perpetuate the health risks from coal for several more decades. Due to the location where the Kosovo e Re plant would be built, it is likely that emissions will exceed EU ambient air quality standards, even if Kosovo B and Kosova e Re meet EU emission standards. No reliable air quality monitoring is taking place, so it is difficult to prove that air quality would be acceptable with a new plant.

4. Kosovo needs to increase renewables and energy efficiency and decrease CO2 emissions

By 2020, Kosovo has committed through the Energy Community to source 25 percent of overall energy from renewable sources and improve energy efficiency by 9 percent. And as the country is aiming to join the EU, it will have to adhere to ever stricter CO2 reduction targets (likely to be 80-95 percent for the EU as a whole by 2050). This one coal power plant alone will likely swallow up most of the country’s carbon budget by 2050, leaving a choice between closing the plant earlier than planned or paying penalties.

5. Water shortage

Kosovo is already water-stressed and its water polluted, and a new plant would add to the problem. A recent paper by Bank Information Center and KOSID shows that the water modelling for the project miss out several factors including water use by the expanded open pit coal mining operations and conveyance of coal from the mine to the power plant, as well as the impact of a new plant on water pollution.

6. Resettlement and agricultural land shortages

A new power plant would require a new mine, and this will require resettlement, the scope of which is to be defined in a new study. However this is complicated by the fact that many of the people are farmers and need to be provided with adequate land to compensate for their lost livelihoods, and agricultural land is in very short supply in Kosovo.

This raises further questions about whether it is better to use scarce land for opening a new mine or feeding people. The resettlement that has occurred so far has been in breach of any known international standards for resettlement. KOSID is currently undertaking a thorough review of resettlement process related to the Kosova e Re plant. Published on: http://bankwatch.org/our-work/projects/kosova-e-re-lignite-power-plant-kosovo