Can Kosovo reach the 20% benchmark set by Brussels?
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 24/02/11
A worker sits on the head of one of three turbines being built in the hills of Goles, Kosovo. [Reuters]
To meet EU standards, Kosovo will have to boost significantly its use of renewable energy. With several projects under way, the country is taking steps, but the challenge is formidable.
The criteria call for producing 20% of energy from renewable sources, boosting wind energy production by 20%, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the same percentage.
"It'll be hard for Kosovo," acknowledged Kaqusha Jashari, a former member of the parliamentary commission on energy. "We currently derive almost all our energy [around 95%] from coal."
Nevertheless, progress is being made. A German company is building wind energy generators on Goles, a mountain near Pristina's airport, and they are expected to be functional within a few months.
"For the first time in Kosovo we are building a wind farm, underwritten by a Kosovo-German company, Wind Power, which invested more than 1m euros in wind energy in Kosovo," Deputy Minister of Energy Blerim Rexha told SETimes.
He added that the ministry does not know yet what the actual wind energy capacity [of the new plant] will be, and how far energy production will go towards meeting the EU's quota.
"Energy can be sold to the Kosovo Energy Co-operation or in a free market in Southeast Europe, but the management has yet to decide what will be the best investment," Rexha said.
Meanwhile, the existing Zhur hydro power plant is being expanded with an eye to the EU's criteria. According to officials, it is accumulating plant derivatives southwest of Prizren and in the municipality of Dragas in preparation for switching to renewable sources.
Water for [the new] Zhur will come from the Sharr Mountain, the water basin in the Plava River and its branches, especially the Brod and Res.
"Kosovo has no other hydro potential as important as Zhur where we can build any plant with a similar capacity," Rexha said. "The hydropower potential of Zhur represents about 43% of Kosovo's total capacity, but it will not be the only one. We are planning on more than ten other hydropower plants in Kosovo, albeit with smaller capacity."
Residents of the Dragas municipality are happy about the plans, but the villages of Opoje, Qollopek and Breznes worry that their homes and properties might be flooded by lake water accumulation. According to Dragas mayor Selim Jenuzi, 200 properties will need to be expropriated for the new plant.
The project also has raised concerns in neighbouring Albania, which is constructing a hydropower plant on the same river. The Albanians worry that the amount of water available for their plant may be reduced, causing a low return on investment.
Kosovo officials say experts on both sides of the border are looking into the issue. They insist, however, that their project is compliant with a 1962 agreement signed by Albania and the former Yugoslavia on use of the Plava waters.