State-owned power producer EPBiH is preparing to convert unit 3 in its Tuzla coal plant into a cogeneration system running on woody biomass. Bankwatch and the Aarhus Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina claim the company is planning to mix solid waste into the fuel and stress that burning large volumes of wood isn’t climate neutral.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) confirmed its interest with a mandate letter in the project for the conversion of unit 3 in the Tuzla coal plant into a combined heat and power facility that would use woody biomass, Elektroprivreda Bosne i Hercegovine (EPBiH) said. The government-controlled utility added there is a possibility of taking a long-term loan of up to EUR 50 million.
EPBiH is working on a string of projects for the replacement of coal with clean energy sources, including with biomass from fast-growing willow trees planted on land belonging to its mines. It is envisaged to be used alongside wood waste in the Tuzla plant, located in the country’s northeast.
Bankwatch and Aarhus Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina have criticized the project for the reconstruction of unit 3, built in 1956, claiming the utility is planning to include waste (RDF – refuse-derived fuel, or SRF – solid recovered fuel) with a share of 10% to 20%. They urged for a public consultation process on the endeavor.
CEO: We will use environmentally friendly fuel
Unit 3 is scheduled to be taken offline by the end of next year, EPBiH noted. The two coal-fired boilers have a combined capacity of 100 MW for electricity and 220 MW for heat production.
With the switch, the facility would be able to provide heat for surrounding towns until 2050 and even beyond that, in line with the directives on renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and climate, according to EPBiH. Unit 3 is currently the main district heating source for Tuzla and nearby Lukavac.
Chief Executive Officer Admir Andelija said the company decided to use an “environmentally friendly” fuel for the production of heat in the Tuzla canton. He added the biomass market would be analyzed to see how it can provide the necessary quantities for unit 3.
EBRD will pay for consulting services for a feasibility study and approve a grant for energy crops
EBRD’s Head of Office in BiH Manuela Naessl said the bank would first grant the funds to hire a consultant to help with the feasibility study and that it would approve another grant for planting energy crops on three hectares as a pilot project. The site would be at a depleted open mining pit.
“We are already cooperating on the preparation of a solar power plant project and we are hoping to advance the mutually beneficial cooperation. We also hope the Federation of BiH would soon adopt a new law on renewable energy sources that would enable important projects,” Naessl added, as quoted by the utility.
Did decision makers ever plan to ask citizens about unit conversion project
CEE Bankwatch Network and the Aarhus Centre in BiH said the public isn’t familiar with the effects of “this risky and environmentally damaging investment, based on burning willows and waste,” on local communities.
“In the Tuzla canton, we have already been burning European RDF waste in the Lukavac cement plant, the City of Živinice is planning its own waste incinerator, and now we also have Elektroprivreda BiH that is planning to reconstruct an ancient boiler in the Tuzla thermal power plant, in which it will burn nonexistent biomass as well as imported waste,” Denis Žiško from the Aarhus Centre said.
Environmentalists pointed out there is not enough biomass and waste-derived fuel in BiH
There is a great probability that the project would end up as a stranded asset as the area envisaged for planting fast-growing willow, belonging to coal mines Kreka, Breza and Đurđevik, spans 1,075 hectares, compared to the estimation that at least 6,042 is necessary, the environmentalists underscored. They said the endeavor also requires irrigation and an additional energy source to dry the material. In addition, burning large quantities of woody biomass causes carbon dioxide emissions and it cannot be called a climate-neutral activity, they pointed out.
The Tuzla canton can’t produce sufficient quantities of the specific waste, which means the recycling of energy-rich fractions would be jeopardized and that waste imports would get a boost, the two organizations said. “If we consider the current bad practice in controlling and preventing pollutant emissions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the chances that the activity would be conducted within the legal limits are minimal,” the announcement reads.
The production of fast-growing willow implies irrigation and an additional energy source for drying the material
“It raises the question of whether the political parties from the Tuzla canton agreed with the plan of Elektroprivreda Bosne i Hercegovine d.d. Sarajevo to effectively install a waste incinerator and when officials were planning to ask the citizens if they agree with the plan to burn European garbage,” Žiško added.
The cities in BiH need to accelerate investments in clean and sustainable solutions for district heating systems that will prioritize the energy obtained from the sun, soil, water and wind, alongside the rollout of heat pumps and the technology to store heat, said Nataša Kovačević from Bankwatch.