In last several years Serbia with its future joint venture partners initiated development of several hydro power plants projects. The potentials of hydro power location are huge, there is also a projected increased demand for electricity supply which makes the investment cycle logical.
Out of many interested companies from world who expressed interest in hydro power project development not many of them actually started some activities. Gains are not explained and communicated enough to different interested parties, specially the communities where the plants will be constructed. Best practice examples in this type of development projects indicate that the project development in great deal depends on leaded & navigated communication strategy and proactive public relations approach.
We all speak about great potentials in energy sector of Serbia, there are still there but not explored in bigger scale, is there a reason for that? Specifically in hydro power projects development so far we witnessed big gap between the investors and other side. Our colleagues from media commenting that level of understanding of investor needs are not argued properly, is it the bad PR or simply the low level of understanding in very specific and multi – influential energy sector.
One of the specific examples is Electric power of Serbia (EPS), position and importance in the country. Despite all EPS efforts and the fact that EPS is one of the key companies in Serbia, public opinion in Serbia is divided between supporting the EPS and judging them. What we learned from our EU partners, associates and readers that transparent communication strategy needs to be sustainable, outreach and address different public opinion groups with key arguments – what are the gains for each of them. Undoubtedly Serbian energy sector generates a lot of jobs and related sectors productivity, should be identified and acknowledged as one of the key national economy drivers. Surely the new power gen projects represent a key chance for this shift in policy orientation.
Italian Secci energy joint venture project with Serbian EPS after thunder announcements in Serbian medias is still in assessment & feasibility phase. Contract between two governments for transfer power cable was one of the main high level milestones achieved so far. The Secci/EPS project also faces some challenges in local communities and within energy stakeholder circles, the public opinion is jointly against the project. Last public hearing in Kraljevo city only confirmed our fears that public opinion generators are not informed in proper way about the gains for local communities. The fears from environmental impacts are still high enough, maybe due to the lack of understanding of local communities. This project raised a great deal of opposition in Serbian medias as its still not clear what are the main gains for Serbia. Of course that domestic economy will be involved in construction of the hpp, local communities will benefit from new jobs and new investors will come to those communities. The gap between investors and local communities must be bridged with different approach as the influence will be positive.
Canadian RVE project in Prijepolje and Ibar river is also in first stage of development. Challenges they faced came as result of communication strategy which was not too clear and did not included all interested sides. From lack of understanding of gains for local community, medias were reluctant to comment on problems as there were no roots and reasons transparent enough to understand.
German RWE interest for big hydro project Djerdap announced the entrance of one of most important energy companies in Europe. Also the importance of RWE Inoggi energy market entrance to Serbia is significant not only for future country energy balance but for national economy as well, simply Morava river projects are more close to realization at this moment. There are great expectations from RWE Inoggi presence, the interest of the public is also very high as this German investor is expected to bring new sustainable approach in communicating the gains and positive impact of the project.
New hydro power plants on Morava river will bring of additional 150MW of green energy, exploration of existing water power gen potentials in Serbia. Project marks the important start of increased Serbian-German energy cooperation, cooperation which may extend to other power generation industry areas. Experience and best practice coming from RWE Inoggi in development and usage of hydro power gen potentials would surely influence local companies and communities which will gain from their presence which will be long term.
According to official press release we published long time ago, construction of the first hydropower plant is expected to start in 2014 after positive results from feasibility studies and completion of the planning process. The chain of power plants with a total installed capacity of 150 MW will generate around 650 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. Moravske hydro power plants company is registered in Serbia, RWE Innogy has a stake of 51 % in the joint venture company; the share of EPS is 49 %.
RWE AGE plans to build hydro-power plants with a total capacity of up to 3,000 megawatts, at two additional potential locations on the Danube and Drina rivers.
We hope that RWE projects will start soon as the gains and interest of public are high, as well as expectations and impacts which may influence important cooperation extension between two countries.