Montenegro looks to energy efficiency

23/03/2010

Along with other regional countries, Montenegro considers alternative energy solutions, with input from USAID Montenegro.

By Marina Roganovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 23/03/10

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USAID Montenegro Officer-in-Charge Ramsey Day (left) and USAID Environmental Officer Vladan Raznatovic speak to participants at the climate change seminar in Podgorica. [Marina Rogovanic/SETimes]

Montenegro needs to diversify its energy solutions, USAID Montenegro Officer-in-Charge Ramsey Day told participants of a recent public discussion on climate change at the American Corner in Podgorica.

Day presented the annual Solar Decathlon competition video series produced by the US government, in which university students from 20 countries build energy efficient houses with an emphasis on solar power.

Concluding that Montenegro has a long way to go, Day said, "Montenegrins do not even insulate their houses when they build them."

USAID has been bringing in experts and working with the Montenegro government in order to find new environmentally safe ways of producing energy.

Plans to build four dams on the Moraca River are supported by the notion that hydro-power is environmentally clean.

But not everyone agrees. "If the construction of these dams goes ahead, not only the Moraca River ecosystem, but also the biodiversity of the largest lake in the Balkans -- not to mention hundreds of local jobs and livelihoods -- would suffer a serious blow," World Wildlife Fund's co-ordinator Francesca Antonelli said.

Research is showing that energy produced from biomass cultivation [growing and harvesting specific crops that are burned to produce electricity] may be the most environmentally benign option," one participant said, pointing out that 20% to 25% of Sweden's electricity comes from biomass production, which suggests that it may be a better option than hydropower.

Day said his organisation will soon offer analysis of Montenegro's energy options, in which biomass will be carefully considered.

USAID Environmental Officer Vladan Raznatovic addressed another issue of the climate change debate.

An avid cyclist who regularly commutes by bicycle, he said that more Montenegrins might be willing to abandon their cars for bicycles if the roads were safe for cyclists.

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However, Raznatovic said that Podgorica's roads are so cycling-unsafe that he "rides only on the city sidewalks".

Efforts are to under way to change that, elsewhere in the region. Michael Szymanski, who completed a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Macedonia, cites the Critical Mass cycling movement.

Szymanski's friends are leaders of Bulgaria's Critical Mass cyclists in Sofia, who gather in large numbers to bike through the streets, often disrupting and snarling traffic in order to establish cyclists' right to use the roads.

"It started with just a few bikes, but it has continued to grow and now Sofia's politicians are starting to listen," said Szymanski.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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