April 6, 2022
The Government of Montenegro has decided to initiate the procedure to determine its share of water and hydropower from the Bileća lake, located on the border in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. The resources are currently used by the Republic of Srpska, an entity of BiH, and Croatia.
The Bileća lake was created in 1965 by damming the Trebišnjica, the border river between Montenegro and BiH or, more precisely, the Republic of Srpska entity. The idea was to establish what is now the Trebišnjica Hydropower System (HES Trebišnjica) to tackle flooding and enable irrigation and electricity production.
The Bileća lake is the heart of the Trebišnjica Hydropower System, a source of valuable water and hydropower resources
The value of the system, which is not fully completed, is in the provision of drinking water and electricity, in particular peak load, which is the most expensive on the market and enables easier integration of solar and wind power plants as they are intermittent. Such resources are and will be precious in the years to come.
Montenegro: According to all international laws, a part of Bileća lake is ours
The Government of Montenegro announced that an expert team has been formed that would represent Montenegro in the procedure of determining the rights in the valorization of the waters of Bileća lake. The decision was made based on a proposal from the Ministry of Capital Investments, previously initiated by state-owned power utility Elektroprivreda Crne Gore (EPCG).
Montenegro said its rights need to be determined and adequately protected after BiH, the Republic of Srpska and Croatia used water for 57 years for multiple purposes.
Montenegro undoubtedly claims the right to use the water from the Bileća lake in accordance with all domestic and international regulations and laws, the document reads. The government estimates it is entitled to 40 percent of the Bileća lake water basin as well as 24 percent of the lake’s total volume.
Montenegro claims 24 percent of the accumulation
The document adds the water resources and hydropower are the country’s national and natural wealth.
HES Trebišnjica is not finished. So far, four hydropower plants have been built: Trebinje 1 (168 MW), Trebinje 2 (8 MW), Dubrovnik (252 MW) and pumped storage HPP Čapljina (420 MW). Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici (HET), a subsidiary of Srpska’s government-controlled utility Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske (ERS) manages all the facilities except HPP Dubrovnik, which is run by Croatia’s Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP). According to HET, about 2,800 GWh of peak load is now produced, and an additional 860 GWh could be produced after the construction of the power plants.
EPCG: Montenegro does not receive even a symbolic fee for water use
Rajko Radusinović, the coordinator of EPCG’s working group, told RTCG that, despite huge output, Montenegro received only a fee for the use of the waters of the Bileća lake totaling an equivalent of EUR 200,000 from 1971 to 1991. The symbolic fee has not been paid since 1992, he added.
He added Montenegro tried to exercise its rights regarding Bileća lake, but that the representatives of BiH, the Republic of Srpska and Croatia as well as the management of the hydroelectric plants remained silent.
Of note, ERS has recently started the construction of HPP Dabar, which will be part of HES Trebišnjica, as well as HPP Bileća. The government of Montenegro said the country’s spatial plan and Energy Development Strategy until 2025 envisage the construction of HPP Boka, which would use the same resources. Also, in June last year, the management of EPCG and ERS discussed Trebišnjica and the HPP Sutorina project.
Petrović (ERS): Montenegro’s request without grounds
According to power utility ERS, based in the Republic of Srpska, Montenegro’s initiative has no basis as the Trebišnjica hydropower plant system was completed in the era of former Yugoslavia. The plan didn’t envisage for water and energy to be shared with Montenegro, the company added.
Luka Petrović, the general director of ERS, said that neither water nor energy from Bileća lake should be shared with Montenegro. He stressed that the Government of Montenegro launched an initiative in a caretaker capacity.
Earlier cabinets, led by the party of current President Milo Đukanović for 30 years, never submitted such a request, and only now some individuals are raising the issue, said Petrović.