About 400 million euros were given to EPS for subsidies

, SEE Energy News

The introduction of a tax on CO2 emissions in Serbia will affect the price of electricity produced from coal. The Electric Power Industry of Serbia must prepare for this tax and think as a body independent of the state

Coal reserves in Serbia are being depleted, and any further excavation is at the expense of the environment and human health. It is almost certain that fossil energy sources, including gas, will become the most expensive and completely obsolete in 10 to 15 years, says Kiara Martineli, director of the European Climate Action Network (CAN Europe), the leading European coalition of NGOs fighting climate change. In an interview with “Nova”, he talks about the consequences of the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, what consequences awaits the planet if it does not give up coal in time, and what awaits Serbia on that road. 

Due to the increase in the price of Russian gas, Germany announced the activation of shut down thermal power plants, and they are announcing that from Romania and Italy. How much will this disrupt plans to abandon coal?

It is true that many countries are considering activating coal-fired power plants that are out of operation; there are also countries that have unofficially sent a message that, if necessary, they will extend the operation of thermal power plants after the date for their closure. The EU is preparing a new package of sanctions that includes a ban on coal imports from Russia. This ban means that about 13 percent of thermal power plants in the EU will stop working, which is a positive step. Although it is difficult to estimate how much EU members will insist on increasing the production of electricity from coal, it is not realistic to expect a permanent return to thermal power plants. Coal is still expensive, so most investors, financiers and insurance companies are turning to more profitable energy sources. EU climate and energy policies have set clear goals that must be achieved by 2030.

To what extent does the return of coal take us away from the goal of achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?

 – In order to achieve the goal set by the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming to 1.5C, the EU must become climate neutral by 2040, and in order to achieve that, there must be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65 percent by 2030 This means that EU members must phase out coal by 2030. Any delay calls into question the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

The current situation caused by the Russian aggression on Ukraine and EU sanctions is a key moment for a quick transition to energy saving, energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels, including gas, are not legitimate in any way.

 What if emissions remain too high for the next three decades?

– CAN Europe asks the EU to gradually eliminate coal by 2030, and fossil gas by 2035, in order to achieve the set limits of global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If we also take into account the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine, it has never been more obvious to what extent it is important to accelerate the energy transition. Even in the best case scenario, that is, if we manage to maintain the upper limit of the warming of the Mediterranean, including the Balkans, at about 1.5 degrees, more and more frequent heat shocks and droughts await us. This is another reason why the countries of the Western Balkans should find new ways to adapt to the effects of climate change, and encourage solutions that lead to nature restoration, such as rehabilitation of riverbeds and wetlands, expansion of green areas in urban areas, sustainable agricultural development, circular economy and Similarly. Unpredictable weather changes are becoming more common throughout the Western Balkans, in addition to forest fires. All this leads to the destruction of forests and crops. These effects will be increasingly devastating if we do not limit global temperature rise to 1.5C.

CO2 taxes are one way to reduce emissions of this dangerous gas. You think that the countries of the Western Balkans should introduce them as soon as possible.

 – The introduction of taxes on CO2 emissions in Serbia will affect the price of electricity produced from coal. The Electric Power Industry of Serbia must prepare for this tax and think as a body independent of the state. EPS’s reliance on state subsidies and aid does not encourage the management of this largest energy company to reduce CO2 emissions and diversify energy production capacities. The policy of subsidies for coal-related business in Serbia cost citizens, in the period from 2015 to 2019, around 388 million euros. This figure does not cover the costs incurred by the health system. Therefore, the actual expenditures of EPS are not shown, but are masked through the substantial support of the state, ie our citizens. 

 Serbia is working on a plan that should define the way of leaving coal. What alternative energy sources should be included? Are small hydropower and nuclear power acceptable options? 

 – Serbia must turn to finding the best options for the use of renewable sources, as well as work on reducing energy demand through investments in energy efficiency, such as renovation of buildings and stimulation of green construction. Coal reserves in Serbia are being depleted, and any further excavation is at the expense of the environment and human health. As for small hydropower plants, it is unfortunate that Serbia, like other countries in the Western Balkans, has allowed environmental costs to far outweigh its social benefits. There is no doubt that any investment in a hydropower plant must be environmentally friendly. This also applies to wind and solar installations. Nuclear energy is not a viable option at the moment. Even if security risks and high investment costs were reduced, it is unrealistic to expect that investments in innovative nuclear energy sources are growing in the same way as in renewable energy sources. Moreover, in 1970, Yugoslavia signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which means that Serbia has neither the capacity nor the legal framework to do so, Nova reports.