Four Energy Community contracting parties in the Western Balkans face the possibility of infringement procedures as they failed to bring emissions of SO2, NOx and PM from their coal power plants in compliance with international rules.
The Energy Community Secretariat said it sent warning letters to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, North Macedonia and Serbia to express concerns about the implementation of their national emission reduction plans. NERPs enable compliance with the Large Combustion Plants Directive, setting the limits for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter for facilities with a capacity of more than 50 MW.
In the case of the four contracting parties in the Western Balkans, almost all of the excessive air pollution in the segment originates in lignite-fired thermal power plants. The secretariat sends warning letters before the potential start of an enforcement procedure, officially called dispute settlement.
Energy sector is major factor in air pollution
The international organization stressed air pollution has been a long-lasting issue in the region. The energy sector is one of the main contributors and it is responsible for high health and environmental costs and many premature deaths, according to the statement.
After sending a warning letter, the Energy Community Secretariat may decide to launch an enforcement procedure
Governments impose overall emission limits from NERPs on all the large combustion units. Some of the plants can be exempted, but then they have to comply with the caps individually. There is also the opt-out mechanism, which limits the number of operating hours of a facility before it has to be reconstructed or closed.
Failing to meet international obligations
The leadership of the Energy Community or EnC has earlier warned of breaches in most of the 16 large combustion plants in Serbia. Last month the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI) from Belgrade sued Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), the dominant and state-owned coal mining company and power producer, for endangering public health with extreme SO2 emissions from its thermal power plants in Obrenovac and Kostolac.
According to the latest data and official updates, two desulfurization plants that were completed in thermal power plants in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina still aren’t operational, while two other projects are underway in EPS’s TENT division in Obrenovac and another one is planned for Kostolac.
Albania, also an Energy Community contracting party, has no active thermal power plants. As for Montenegro, its Minister for Capital Investments Mladen Bojanić said last week that the government is negotiating a new deadline for shutting down thermal power plant Pljevlja as it has already used up its 20,000 operating hours allowed until the end of 2023.