Kosovo’s Supreme Court has ruled that three hydropower plants near the village of Deçan must be shut down pending a final court decision. The facilities are owned by KelKos Energy, a subsidiary of Austria-based Kelag-Kärntner Elektrizitäts and Kelag International.
Environmentalists and locals have been protesting for years now against KelKos Energy and its controversial small hydropower plants. They claim the government failed to assess the environmental risk and to consult the communities living in the villages where the units operate – which is required by law.
KelKos operates four hydropower plants in Kosovo’s west: Lumbardhi 1 (8 MW), Lumbardhi 2 (7 MW), Belaja (7.5 MW) and Deçani (9.5 MW). The ruling refers to Deçani, Belaja and Lumbardhi 2, while Lumbardhi 1 has already been off the grid for one year, according to Riwerwatch.
All three facilities are located within the Bjeshkët e Nemuna National Park
A year ago, KelKos was ordered to take Deçani, Belaja and Lumbardhi 2 off the grid because it didn’t fulfill the environmental requirements for their construction and operation. All three units, located within the Bjeshkët e Nemuna National Park, were active for several years, Riverwatch said.
In the legal dispute, the Court of Appeal then found the cessation of operation of the power plants was against public interest and that it could not reasonably be expected of the company. As a result, KelKos reconnected two of the three power plants to the grid.
Now, however, the Supreme Court clarified that operating the power plants would potentially cause irreparable harm to local residents so that the units must be shut down, Riverwatch said.
Of note, Kelag is a major investor in hydropower in the Balkans, especially in Kosovo* and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its owners are the Austrian state of Carinthia, Verbund AG and German energy giant RWE.
Kelag withdraws lawsuits against two activists
In February, KelKos launched a lawsuit against Shpresa Loshaj from the Pishtarët movement. The firm has demanded EUR 100,000 for defamation after she pointed to environmental degradation from its projects in Kosovo*. Last year it also sued Adriatik Gacaferi, an activist from Deçan, or Dečani, for EUR 10,000.
The lawsuits were criticised by Amnesty International as a way to intimidate and silence the two environmentalists. AI classified this lawsuit as a strategic lawsuit against public participation or SLAPP case.
Loshaj has told Balkan Green Energy News there was plenty of evidence in videos and photos to show the destruction that KelKos caused.
According to Riverwatch, Kelag’s representatives announced that the lawsuits would be withdrawn unconditionally.
“The withdrawal of the lawsuits against the environmental activists is an overdue step and the decision of the Supreme Court has once again confirmed that the permits were not handled by the book. The Kelag, but also the authorities in Kosovo*, must now prove that they recognize the signs and have the three power plants in the national park reassessed without reservation,” says Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch.