Serbia, The energy sector is facing major challenges

, News Serbia Energy

The energy crisis caught Serbia unprepared. The global energy problems caused by the war in Ukraine and the European sanctions against Russia only added to the consequences of years of neglect due to the constant postponement of investments. In the last three decades, not a single capital energy facility has been built in our country, and the new Government of Serbia announces a change in that course and prioritizes the construction of new capacities. In her presentation, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić emphasized that all efforts will be invested in the energy sector, as an investment of 12 billion euros is planned.

Among the projects she listed are the completion of the construction of Block B3 in Kostolac, the gas interconnection to Bulgaria that will connect us with Greece, the construction of the Bistrica hydroelectric plant, the construction of the oil pipeline to Hungary.

The Minister of Energy, Dubravka Đedović, told Euronews Serbia that she will have to deal with energy sector reforms, which have been delayed for a long time, but are badly needed. She said that it is important to start auditable hydropower plants, because they are the key to Serbia being able to rely on renewable energy sources.

“This means that we have stable production capacities. With the addition of energy from Kostolac, we will strengthen our security of supply, but we must also have quality coal. We have projects that should ensure that the quality of coal is equalized. We will also work on securing new capacities of hydroelectric power plants and there is a good energy mix from coal and hydropower, which must be strengthened in order to introduce renewable sources into the system”, said the Minister of Energy.

She emphasized that it is necessary to ensure greater energy independence, security and stability. Experts believe that it does not matter which projects the Government of Serbia will single out as priorities in order to achieve these goals. They note that the lack of investments in previous decades cannot be compensated in the short term, but they point out that it is important to finally start implementing projects, and they state the importance of the energy strategy as a key issue.

Gavrilović: Any connection is welcome

Energy expert Velimir Gavrilović says that the announcement of investing 12 billion euros in Serbia’s energy sector seems impressive, but the question is where the money would come from. He believes that it would be best to create such a business environment to attract large private investments in energy, but also in other economic branches.

He believes that the gas interconnector with Bulgaria, which “perhaps at some point will be able to procure only a small part of Azerbaijani gas from the so-called Southern Gas Corridor, should not be among the priorities in the current financial situation”. It is a similar case, as he states, with the announced oil pipeline to Hungary, which should enable an alternative route for the transport of cheaper Russian oil, since EU sanctions and Croatia’s rigid attitude prevent us from using Janaf for Russian oil. He notes that there was no impression that we received serious guarantees from Hungary that they would behave differently from Croatia in this sense.

“There is still insistence on the completion of Block B3 of the Kostolac B thermal power plant, even though it is a large investment in a thermal power plant that burns lignite. Due to the energy crisis, coal has become an acceptable source of energy again in the short term, despite the damage it causes to the environment. Thermal power plants should be kept in to the extent that we will have available lignite of satisfactory quality, i.e. to the extent that it is necessary to produce the missing amounts of energy, with strict adherence to European standards for acceptable levels of emissions of harmful particles and gases. In the medium term, it is better to replace outdated thermal power plants with gas power plants, assuming the political situation in Europe will calm down in the foreseeable future, and the flow of Russian gas will return to normal”, notes Gavrilović.

He believes that the construction of the Buk-Bijela hydroelectric power plant, which will cost more than 200 million euros, is welcome, but indicates that it is “an ordinary, storage hydroelectric power plant”, and that priority should definitely be given to the reversible hydroelectric power plant Bistrica, “even though it requires 3.5 times more money”.

“The reversible power plant increases national capacities for balance energy, which are crucial for creating a balance in the energy system that should contain significant solar capacities and wind farms. The project of the reversible power plant Đerdap 3 has been updated again, probably in combination with a wind farm. It is an ideal , but also a very expensive project, “difficult” for several billion euros. Serbian and Romanian electricity companies will certainly participate in this project, but it could also be offered in a certain, attractive percentage at an international tender, for example under the concession model”, Gavrilović explains.

He points out that all these are very expensive and multi-year investments and indicates that the Government should have a long-term energy strategy.

“Serbia has literally built nothing since 1990. We cannot expect progress if we do not invest. Thermal power plants in Serbia will produce electricity obtained from coal until 2050. After that period, it will no longer be possible. Until then, it is necessary to maintain those power plants, and when they are no longer operational, it is necessary to find a solution for replacement capacities. A strategy related to this does not exist in Serbia, and it is necessary to come up with one as soon as possible”, said Stojčevski.

He pointed out that ten-year plans with clear deadlines, projects and responsibilities are necessary. He added that, in order to ensure sufficient electricity in the future, the state should invest in the construction of nuclear power plants in the area, and encourage the construction of renewable energy sources in the country, primarily solar panels. 

He believes that the most can be done in the short term on renewable energy sources, because it is the simplest and fastest.

“These are small amounts, but if everyone did it, a significant amount could be made in a relatively quick time. We have lost the last two years since we passed the law, investments have temporarily stopped, because no by-laws have been passed. it must be solved urgently”, believes Stojčevski.

He pointed out that clear regulations and a quick procedure are the main thing, as well as a strategy that will not depend on politics, “but to be drawn up and for everyone to do their job”.

“We are in a problem, because we cannot quickly build even a thermal power plant, not to mention a nuclear power plant, which is now accepted as green. I am not in favor of construction on our territory, but I believe that we should build with neighboring countries , such as Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, where we would simply invest in investments, because the knowledge and technologies already exist there and where we would have a certain amount for our needs,” says Stojčevski.

Rajaković: We don’t have much time for plans

Professor and president of the Association of Energy Engineers of Serbia, Nikola Rajaković, tells Euronews Serbia that no solution should be rejected, that is, that we should use everything at our disposal.

“And the sun, wind, water, geothermal and biomass and try within that, together with energy efficiency and modern technologies that are in front of us, to pack it all together into one unit and that it gives good results. It is not easy, the challenges facing the energy sector are started for several years. Fossil fuel resources are limited and it is necessary to ensure the greatest degree of energy independence”, said Rajaković.

The professor mentioned that the situation is such that Serbia needs every megawatt already tomorrow and that we do not have much time for plans, but that we should start working seriously on their realization.

“The priority is solar energy, which is realized the fastest, but immediately behind that is wind energy, but we certainly also have unused hydro-potentials. Not much is missing, a step or two in regulation and organization, and also in the willing element that people want to invest in our own power plant, so let’s make serious strides in that area. We have about 400 megawatts in wind power plants. It is necessary to fix the regulations that are creaking in several places first”, the professor believes.

He mentioned that Serbia dominantly produces energy in a centralized way, in TE Obrenovac and HE Đerdap, but that energy production at the level of local self-governments is becoming more and more important. He pointed out that in Serbia, in addition to the large electricity production systems that already exist, it is necessary to build smaller plants and that local self-government has an important role in that segment.

“We can cover a quarter or about 25 percent of the total energy needs for electricity, heating, and energy for cooling at the local level. The big advantage of such production is that the energy is consumed at the place where it is produced and then there are no transportation costs”, Rajakovic said.

Babić: The problem is that the plan lasts for one mandate

Milun Babić, vice president of the Serbian Energy Association, believes that the fastest return would be for the state to invest part of those funds in energy efficiency.

“It is something where you can simply ensure in the next 20 years that households, institutions, factories do not waste energy around them. This is the essence of all countries that have succeeded in that energy sector, their first goal was energy efficiency and they implemented that plan in the long term. Everything else was an upgrade. There were also attempts with us, but with us the plan lasts for one term, when the next minister comes, he starts from the other side, from the beginning. That problem is start-stop and everything grinds when the government changes”, says Babić, Euronews writes.