The Energy Community Secretariat is ready to hear out the governments and companies in the Western Balkans that are requesting to postpone the closure of large combustion plants that run on coal, Director Artur Lorkowski said.
As the energy crisis drags on, several European Union member states are increasing the production of coal, boosting capacity utilization in old power plants using the material and even getting some of the retired facilities back online. At the same time, they are formally sticking to environmental and climate goals for 2030 and beyond.
Energy security is now priority as the 27-member bloc is striving to weaken its dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
The Western Balkan region has been heavily criticized over the past several years for pollution from large combustion plants, particularly with regard to the operation of coal-fired power units. There is a number of open cases within the Energy Community against the countries in the group. Of note, the organization also includes Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Issue didn’t come up at latest Energy Community Ministerial Council meeting
Is there any room for leniency for the region now that entire Europe is scrambling to get enough power to get through the current and next winter season? Energy Community Secretariat Director Artur Lorkowski confirmed there are requests to prolong the lifespan of some coal power plants that are or were supposed to cease operations when they spend the 20,000 hours awarded through a so-called opt-out mechanism.
Ensuring the implementation of environmental legislation is the basic and overriding principle
“We are open for hearing the arguments of those who are requesting such an extension. However, it is to be made very clear that the very basic objective of the Energy Community and the Energy Community Secretariat is to ensure the full implementation of the environmental legislation that is already in place. This is the basic and overriding principle we are following in this regard. Having said that, the discussion is to be opened and we are ready to hear what the arguments are of the companies and the governments that are requesting an extension of the limits,” he told reporters after the annual meeting of the Energy Community Ministerial Council. Still, Lorkowski pointed out there was no word on the matter during the event in Vienna.
BiH files plan for solving disputes
The Polish diplomat didn’t reveal any particulars. Earlier this year, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina extended the operation of two units within the state-owned Tuzla and Kakanj coal plants until the end of 2027, which earned it a so-called settlement dispute procedure in the Energy Community.
Serbia has two coal plants due for closure next year
The same happened to Montenegro, which breached the 20,000-hour deadline in late 2020. The country’s only coal plant, Pljevlja, is undergoing reconstruction that is planned to bring the system in line with EU standards. All the said units were supposed to be already closed or reconstructed, while Serbia is supposed to be preparing to shut down its facilities Kolubara A and Morava.
As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which also has other issues to solve within the Energy Community framework, Lorkowski said Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Staša Košarac has filed a plan for overcoming all the inconsistencies. There are procedures against BiH for matters like delays in legislation and the separation of the sectors of electricity production and distribution.
Lorkowski acknowledged that the secretariat would discuss the issues on the central government level, but also with entity authorities, due to the complexity of the country’s political system. The Federation of BiH is the larger of the two, and the other one is called the Republic of Srpska.