BiH; Social Dimension of Energy Transition

16.Dec 2017.

Despite the opposition of the local community to the construction of overhaul hydropower plants on the rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a series of accusations of ecocids, the number of concessions for these endangered ecological and energy-efficient projects is not diminished. Such ignorance of the public’s opinion testifies to the utterly wrong and ineffective ecological policy in BiH: its socio-economic aspects are completely encumbered by the interests of private investors.

Electricity production of the ecological type in Bosnia and Herzegovina is characterized by two main features: largely the bulk of the engaged or projected renewable sources are natural watercourses, and at the current early stage of the development of such energy it can be said that it is gathered by most private investors. Energy transition to so-called. renewable, relying on European-Union politics, therefore, shows the expected characteristics of the other, ie the first transition – changes in social planning from the beginning of the past decade. The progressive ecological goal in this case spills the social dimension, and all the legitimate benefits of production are organized according to the interest of capital, as far as possible its democratization and communalization. Due to the profitability of the newly-launched sector with relatively low input costs and quick returns, it completely logically fails and proclaims the ecological purpose of the transitional venture.

For, natural watercourses, not only in BiH, are only conditionally renewable sources; the necessary actions on them, in the construction of energy-producing facilities, as a rule, irreversibly alter the integral regime of river and whitewater biotopes, as well as the hydrodynamics and erosion of the soil. Some of the consequences of such redesign, with subsequent neglect of regulated basins, dictated by public-budget cuts, could have been noticed with catastrophic floods in the Black Sea or Sava river basin in that country three years ago. Although public awareness of the excessive hydoregulation vulnerability in BiH has already been well developed, however, there is no indication that it will soon affect the development of emancipation and social access to the sector as well.

The two databases we have chosen for this review clearly point to the proportions of the ruling trend, and the first is a Register of Renewable Energy Operators projects and efficient cogeneration of the Federation of BiH. By inspecting the list of power plants, it is easy to find that most of the over 170 facilities are just hydro power plants which, in relation to solar plants – practically the only one still represented – are especially predominant in terms of installed power and projected annual output in megavatsats. Immediately into the eye and absent energy powered by biomass that is usually considered the most potent source of ecological current in BiH.

Relationship between private and public: rivers sparked by projects

Another useful database has been opened by the overseas ecologic organizations of EuroNatur and RiverWatch within the Balkan campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”. The map with the hydropower projects, realized or just planned, shows the astonishing high intensity of the developer’s interest in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian rivers and streams. The two central rivers of the mentioned basin, Vrbas and Bosna, are literally tricked by projects. Only a few lesser interests attracted the two longest river in the country, Drina and Neretva; the latter is, and should be emphasized, the dominant force of the Adriatic basin of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Speaking of Neretva and especially of its upstream, some energy-productive invasion is related to public sector companies, eg the entity owned by Republika Srpska’s entities, as well as their cross-border co-operators such as the Croatian Electric Power Industry. The role of the state is, however, primarily in the service function for the needs of individual private investors, similar to the one in Croatia which, with the policy concerned, has gone a bit further. Basically, the state is setting the ambience for rapid investor penetration into the sector, determining annual development quotas in megavatsats and ensuring technically demanding energy placement in the general distribution network, and which model does not promise the ultimate payoff for the overall public system. While BiH already accounts for about one third of the energy consumed from hydro power plants, primarily those older and built by public funds, it is planned to raise this share by 41 percent by 2020, but mostly from new renewals owned by private entities.

Relationships between public and private interests, as well as powers retained at the state or entity level, or, for smaller facilities, are left to the cantons, illustrate the frequent and often successful cases of the nation’s anti-ecocidal case. Of course, the other side is also protesting: private lobbying interests are critically criticized by state bureaucracy and similar culprits to slow down business evasion justified by ecological sources, and such discourse is often catched by politically insufficiently-informed nature lovers. That was a very indicative one of the projects on the trajectory of local-collective investment, though carriers of ecclesiastical organizations such as Caritas and Diocese, but far behind behind reading private-business rejuvenation.

Socially motivated attempts, in this respect, stop in the area of BiH in the beginning or are realized with limited reach, so the needs of the wider community with the ultimate prospect of energy democratization and decentralization still fail to affirm. And this is confirmed by the words of Natasa Crnkovic from the Banja Luka Association Center for the Environment. “The authorities favor the private interests of powerful investors or small businessmen, while not encouraging the development of energy facilities and community-owned facilities. Given that we actively monitor the development of the hydro power sector, I can say that we have not testified to the construction of a micro or small hydropower plant by the local community or those that would be in use. By contrast, most local communities are strongly opposed to these projects, precisely because they do not benefit from them. Renewable energy quotas are mostly reserved for hydro power plants, where most of the subsidies go, “Crnkovic told Bulletin.

The CZSZ president also noted that hydropower projects, aside from the fact that they can lead to permanent disturbances and inconsequential consequences on nature, usually restrict access to local communities and affect the unequal distribution of water use as a common natural resource. “BiH is one of the last countries in Europe,” she added, “which has good quality natural water, and that by building a hydro power plant drastically changes and threatens our citizens’ rights to clean and healthy drinking water. Although government in BiH  hydroelectric projects presents as a potential for opening a new jobs, in practice, it has proved inauspicious, as small hydro power plants employ up to three people. “