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Who is against EPS projects and energy cooperation in the region?

28.Oct 2021.

EPS is very interested in cooperation with the electric power companies from the area, and every hint of building a new green capacity receives praise from Brussels. However, in addition to praise, there is no lack of neighborly support for a project that promotes the connection of the region, cooperation and renewable energy sources.

Serbia and its neighbors are trying to increase the energy capacity of the region, and this is shown by projects such as the construction of the “Upper Drina” system, ie the first hydroelectric power plant “Buk Bijela”, with a capacity of about 100 megawatts. The project is being implemented by the joint venture HES “Gornja Drina”, in which EPS has 51 percent ownership, and ERS 49 percent. HPP “Buk Bijela” is part of the project for the construction of three hydroelectric power plants on the upper course of the Drina River, with a total capacity of over 200 megawatts and a projected annual production of about 700 million kWh of electricity. This 520m-euro investment will bring green kilowatt-hours and increase the energy stability of Serbia, Republika Srpska and the region as a whole.

– Everything related to the construction of HPP “Buk Bijela”, including the granting of the concession, was done in accordance with the legal and constitutional provisions – believes Petar Đokić, Minister of Energy and Mining of the Republic of Srpska.

– Apart from the political one, I do not see any other reason that could justify Sarajevo’s attempts to hinder the construction of the HPP. The behavior of the representatives of the Constitutional Court who support it is also unclear, by involving a completely incompetent Commission for Concessions in an absolutely unnecessary story, which can award concessions only at locations on the interstate border or on the inter-entity line. In this particular case, it has nothing to ask for, because in that belt, the river Drina is neither the border with Serbia and Montenegro, nor is it an inter-entity line. Everything is in the exclusive competence of Srpska, and thus of its commission for concessions.

An environmental impact study has been done for the construction of HPP “Buk Bijela” and this project has a valid environmental permit, which has a special chapter in which the impact on the environment in Montenegro is dealt with. It states that the impacts that will occur during the preparatory works, as well as during the construction and use of HPP “Buk Bijela”, as well as their intensity, will not produce elements of significant, unfavorable transboundary impact on the environment and protected areas of Montenegro. The conclusion is that in accordance with Annex 3 of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in the Transboundary Context of ESPOO, it is not necessary to prepare special documentation on the impact of HPP “Buk Bijela” on the territory of Montenegro.

Some environmental NGOs in Montenegro and BiH see danger in the construction of HPP “Buk Bijela”, and even earlier the Montenegrin Ministry of Capital Investments, as well as the Ministry of Ecology, Spatial Planning and Urbanism had no objections to the project until the reservoirs cross the Montenegrin border. There are no objections from ecologists, but additional explanations will be given by the expert team of Montenegro and Republika Srpska, which will review the project documentation, structure and planned operation regime of HPP “Buk Bijela” in the next month.

– Any technical-technological and engineering solution that guarantees that the future artificial lake will not have negative impacts on the Tara River and that no part of the Tara River will be submerged, is completely acceptable for us – said Danilo Mrdak, State Secretary of the Ministry of Ecology, spatial planning and urbanism of Montenegro.

At the same time, “Elektroprivreda Srbije” supports all regional projects and wants to share experience in building new capacities with colleagues from the region and thus participate in the development of the region. In addition to the Gornja Drina project with Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske and the potential Srednja Drina project with Elektroprivreda BiH and RS, EPS also has a constructive approach to cooperation with Elektroprivreda Crne Gore on the HPP Komarnica and HPP Kruševo projects. It is planned that HPP “Komarnica”, in the canyon of the middle course of the river Komarnica, has a capacity of 172 megawatts and an expected annual production of 213 million kWh. The estimated value of the investment is from 260 to 290 million euros. The development of the conceptual design with the Feasibility Study is in progress and it should be completed by the end of this year.

– EPS is very interested in cooperation with electric power companies from the region, as well as in participating in the construction of new energy capacities in the region, primarily in renewable energy projects – says Vladimir Markovic, assistant director and director of the Sector for key investment projects. – EPS’s participation in domestic and regional projects is reflected, above all, in the detailed and thorough preparation of the project, from the initiative for implementation and preliminary analyzes to the preparation of investment and technical documentation, securing financing and obtaining all necessary permits.

Jelica Putniković, editor of the “Energy of the Balkans” portal, points out that only the lobbyists of Western capital are bothered by the announcement of regional connection of electric power companies of the former Yugoslavia, as well as the fact that EPS is forcing regional cooperation.

– If they unite, and if the profession is asked, and not pliable politicians will, the four power companies (EPCG, EPBiH, ERS and EPS) will be able to provide energy security to their consumers by joint transformation into modern electric power companies, which will be profitable – points out Putniković. – EPS does not endanger any of the neighboring power companies. In order to survive the reduction of electricity production from coal, and the rest, the headquarters of local economies and companies that fill state budgets with profit, these electric power companies, including EPS, must join forces. Regional cooperation and a joint strategy of these four power companies is the way to their survival. And, if EPS is viewed as a threat, and not as a company ready to develop with its neighbors, there will be no regional cooperation. Consumers will suffer, who will pay much higher electricity bills, and traders will celebrate.

Double steps

– Electricity companies in the region are respected by the Brussels and the Energy Community for the production of electricity from coal, they insist on the closure of thermal power plants and total liberalization of the market – all in order to open the way for the placement of electricity produced in Western European countries. They insist, however, that much more capacity is being built in these countries for the production of electricity from renewable energy sources. But, it seems that they do not have exactly the same criteria when the investor in RES is private capital and state-owned, electric power companies. If it was a company from the EU, for example, you would probably hear enthusiastic comments that this and that company is helping the Republic of Srpska, that is, Montenegro in expanding its capacity for green energy production – said Jelica Putniković, editor of the Energy Balkans portal.