Why Kosovo needs climate friendly energy alternatives

The majority of Kosovo’s energy comes from lignite, and a new plant is being planned (despite potential problems with the European Union). Communities must invest in renewables, which can help revitalize local economies, increase democratic participation, and improve the environment. Jasminka Young explains.

The Shar Mountains (Photo by AljabakPhoto.com, edited, CC BY-SA 4.0)

In 2016, the vast majority of Kosovo’s energy came from two old, lignite burning coal plants, Kosovo A and B. Kosovo lignite, characterised by high levels of moisture and ash and very low energy containment, has an overwhelming share of 99.51% of the total coal.

This kind of electricity generation comes at a high environmental, economic and health cost. However, many still believe in a myth that coal-fired power plants produce cheap electricity, which is questionable since the real costs of its generation are never paid. At the same time, this “power paradigm” fails to provide economic growth, unconditional energy security and alleviate energy poverty. Regardless of this, the coal-based “power paradigm” is a cornerstone of newly revised Energy Strategy of Kosovo until 2020 which affirms an inadequate policy direction.

A new coal-fired thermal power plant Kosova Re(C) is one of the main envisaged projects in the energy sector. This project is put forward as a solution for energy crisis in Kosovo, where one of the old lignite plants (Kosovo A) is scheduled for decommision in 2017, and the other one (Kosovo B) has to be retrofitted by 2017.

Kosovo C, combined with the two existing sister plants, will result in serious cumulative effects and produce intolerably high pollutant concentrations. Kosovo cannot absorb additional lignite exploitation without fundamentally endangering its living environment. Other limitations of coal-based development in Kosovo include its high population density, limited water resources, and dropping ratio of arable land per capita.

These are not the only challenges related to the current coal based development. The EU perspective of Kosovo dictates climate and energy policy framework and direction that is to a large extent incompatible with the current developments. Since 2006, Kosovo* is a contracting party of the Energy Community (EC) that brings together the EU and the countries from South Eastern Europe and Black Sea regions in order to promote EU energy policy. The EC mission is to extend the EU internal energy market on the basis of a legally binding framework that covers gas, electricity, security of supply, renewables, oil, energy efficiency, environment, competition and statistics. The principal instrument to achieve this aim is the adoption of EU acquis, in energy and related areas.

Whether there will be Kosovo Re(C) and the future of Kosovo A and B is unclear at the moment.  Any possible outcome will have serious implications for Kosovo, but also for other parties to the EC Treaty. Eyes are wide open when possible exceptions from compliance with the provision of Large Combustion Power Plant Directive and Industrial Emissions Directive are concerned. Both Kosovo A and Kosovo B’s destinies are tied to this, and there are evidently many questions and challenges.

Also, in the case of Kosovo (C) it remains to be seen whether major international stakeholders who pledged to refrain from support to coal projects with public resources will withhold financial support. If so, is it possible to finalize lignite project using only commercial investments?  If not, and any form of state aid is applied, how will the EC react? What would be the designed net efficiency of the future plant? If this efficiency is below BAT (Best Available Technology) levels, would the regulator issue an IPPC permit to the plant operator? Finally, what would be the spill-over effects for the other members of the EC?

Constructing new coal plants and refurbishing technologically outdated plants carry so many unanswered questions and concerns that it is worth looking into alternatives for transition towards a more sustainable, affordable and secure energy. The total amount of renewable energy sources (excluding hydropower) available for consumption in Kosovo is negligible, according to the Kosovo Agengy of Statistics. This comes as a surprise, especially considering Kosovo’s natural potential for the utilization of solar energy. With the average of 2000 hours of sunshine annually, Kosovo ranks very high compared to many other European countries that are now advanced in solar systems’ deployment.

It is clear that energy policy in Kosovo suffers from the lack of long-term, climate friendly and bottom-up induced vision. Bottom-up energy developments cannot offer quick fixes. However, long-term investments in decentralised, democratic and climate-friendly energy governance perspectives can significantly contribute to the country’s renewable energy mix. More than one EU member state has successfully done this. Also, Kosovo has a tool that could help facilitate the management of this transition: exceptional connectivity with neighboring systems.

Therefore, local levels of governance in Kosovo need further support to create conditions for innovative programs for using legal, administrative and financial framework to pursue their tailor-made energy agendas. Via carefully designed energy programs that address local needs, communities can be creative in addressing more than one issue. These issues include strengthening all the aspects of democratisation process and development of decentralised structures and local modes of energy governance. At the same time, communities can embrace the challenges of energy diversity, energy security, reduction of energy poverty, contribution to climate goals and environmental protection, all under one umbrella.

For many reasons, this bottom-up perspective is underdeveloped in Kosovo unlike the strategic and legislative framework in renewable energy and energy efficiency area. This, without a doubt, points to the gaps to be filled. The identified gap in the local bottom-up energy development could be bridged by decentralised, community-specific energy solutions based on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency that simultaneously tackle the issues of energy poverty.


*Kosovo: This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

This article, written by Jasminka Young, has been republished with permission.


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