With around 621 000 inhabitants, Montenegro’s electricity needs are mainly met by the 225 MW lignite power plant at Pljevlja and the 307 MW Perućica and 342 MW Piva hydropower plants, all run by state-owned utility Elektroprivreda Crne Gore (EPCG).
Until 2009 Montenegro imported significant amounts of electricity, mostly because of the KAP aluminium plant, which has at times accounted for up to 40 percent of the country’s electricity consumption. However, the plant is now in permanent crisis and its future is uncertain. Since 2011 its demand for electricity has generally decreased, and with it the whole country’s demand, but in 2020 it still accounted for 17 per cent of the country’s electricity consumption. However, since December 2021 the plant has only operated at a minimum level, using much less electricity than before.
In the last decade, Montenegro’s ability to meet its electricity demand domestically has varied according to the hydrological situation. In 2010, 2013, and 2018 – rainy years, it was able to meet demand domestically, while in dry years – 2011, 2012 and 2017 – it still had to import relatively large amounts of electricity.
Montenegro electricity generation 2010-2020
Source: IEA Statistics
Although Albania is more commonly cited as being overly dependent on hydropower, Montenegro also faces this problem to a large extent. As in other Balkan countries, the construction of small hydropower plants has caused widespread public outcry, but in 2020 they generated just 3 per cent of Montenegro’s electricity.
Against the fluctuating background of hydropower generation, difficult decisions need to be taken on the Pljevlja lignite power plant and nearby mines. Since 2020 the power plant has been running illegally as its limited lifetime derogation under the Large Combustion Plants Directive expired.
Montenegro’s previous government signed a deal with a consortium led by China’s Dongfang for the modernisation of the plant in the hope of running it for at least fifteen more years, but numerous questions have been raised about it.
Although Montenegro has two wind farms – Krnovo, which came online in 2017 and Možura which followed in 2019 – several years were lost due to the previous government’s energy strategy centring around three large new energy generation facilities: the Pljevlja II coal power plant (254 MW) and the Morača (238 MW) and Komarnica (172 MW) hydropower plants.
All of these are or were controversial: Pljevlja II was disputed not only because of its health and climate impacts, but also because it would have been uneconomic to build. In September 2019 the Government finally admitted the plant was cancelled.
The Morača and Komarnica hydropower projects both threaten valuable natural areas, though as of early 2023 the Morača plants are no longer mentioned and the Komarnica one is being pushed much harder. The long-dormant Kruševo and Boka plants are also starting to be revived again.
Research on the Morača dams project predicts permanent destruction of very rare and endemic fish and bird species as well as downstream impacts on Skadar Lake, which is recognised as an international (RAMSAR, potential Natura 2000, proposed Emerald site) and national (National Park) protected area.
The Komarnica valley is also nominated as an Emerald and Natura 2000 site and includes the unique Nevidio Canyon, which is protected as a Natural Monument.
Montenegro has so far made little use of its solar potential, but in 2018 a tender for a 250 MW solar farm was completed. However, its construction has been delayed by spatial planning issues. Rooftop solar finally started to progress in 2022 though a series of EPCG programmes designed to make it easier for households and businesses to host solar photovoltaics on their roofs.
Montenegro will need to build some additional electricity capacity in the coming years, in order to be able to phase out the existing Pljevlja coal plant, but this should be possible with the use of solar PV and wind. Different sources cite varying levels of potential, but all show that a significant expansion of capacity is possible.
REmap scenario 2030 minus 2015 installed
Additional cost-competitive potential up to 2050
Decarbonisation scenario 2050
EU Road scenario to 2050
Montenegro has no infrastructure for natural gas distribution and does not currently extract oil, though the government is interested in oil and gas production in the Adriatic Sea. It is also interested in the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline, an offshoot of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline that runs through Albania. This would be a large step in the wrong direction as it would lock the country into gas usage at a time when it should be decarbonising.
Montenegro has great potential for reducing demand through more efficient energy use. According to IEA statistics, Montenegro’s energy intensity has been falling slightly in recent years but is still more than twice that of the EU-28. Inefficient practices such as using electrical heaters for heating are widespread.
For a more in-depth look at barriers to a sustainable energy transition in Montenegro and our proposals for how to overcome them, see our 2021 study with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung: The Political Economy of Energy Transition in Southeast Europe – Barriers and Obstacles.
More on coal in the Balkans
Yesterday the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliament voted to extend the lifetime of the antiquated Tuzla 4 and Kakanj 5 coal units, in clear breach of the Energy Community Treaty. The move condemns the public to yet more lethal air pollution.
This year we are marking five years since Bankwatch engaged in air pollution work in the Balkans. Throughout these years, there was one constant in the work – the environmental dust monitor. It has become the hero of many communities and is known to every organisation in the region that works for cleaner air.