Bankwatch Mail 58
Bankwatch Mail | 20 March 2014
Issue 58 of Bankwatch Mail, published as stakeholders meet in the European Parliament to discuss the future of the ‘Energy Community’. Comprising the countries of the western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine, the Energy Community aims primarily to extend EU internal energy policy to south east Europe and the Black Sea region. Its modus operandi and achievements are now being evaluated at high level, which – as this issue shows – is undoubtedly necessary given the stunning number of highly questionable coal and lignite fired power plants that are proceeding in various Energy Community members.
- The EU-backed Energy Community Treaty, signed in 2005 and comprising the western Balkan countries, Ukraine and Moldova, has been widely hailed as encouraging regional co-operation. It also sets a legislative framework for the signatories (also known as the contracting parties) that should contribute, along with the EU accession process, to addressing the environmental and social impacts of the energy sector. Indeed, examples of the Energy Community’s added value are its adoption of renewable energy targets in October 2012, as well as a requirement for power plants to comply with EU emissions limits.
- Bankwatch has been monitoring and campaigning against the ill-conceived EBRD- and EIB-financed Unit 6 at Šoštanj in Slovenia for several years now. Yet the project never ceases to amaze with its myriad flaws and scandals – and the first few months of 2014 have been no exception.
- Local development and investments in resource extraction rarely go together hand in hand. Bankwatch’s Media coordinator David Hoffman reports back on a recent visit to the EBRD sponsored Patos Marinza oil field in Albania. The case provides valuable lessons for the current revision of the EBRD’s safeguard policies.
- Pljevlja’s 210 MW lignite power plant, operating since 1982 in northern Montenegro, has caused controversy since the beginning of its lifetime. Even back in late ’70s Yugoslavia when the project was being planned, residents succeeded in pressing for the chimney to be taller than planned (250 metres instead of 200 metres) in an attempt to ensure that the plant’s pollution rose above the hills surrounding Pljevlja and dispersed further away.
- While governments in south-east Europe have been talking about building new lignite power plants for years, the only one under construction to date is Energy Financing Team’s (EFT) 300 MW Stanari plant in the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Rather than serving as an inspiration to others in the region, the project is an example of what not to do, as borne out by an official complaint submitted in January by NGOs Center for Environment from Banja Luka and ClientEarth to the Vienna-based Energy Community Treaty secretariat.
- Ideas about the construction of a new lignite power plant in Kosovo have existed since the end of the 1980s, and even the current Kosova e Re proposal – scaled down to 600 MW from the original 2100 MW – has been around since 2009. It is being touted by the Kosovo government, the World Bank, USAID and the European Commission among others as the only realistic option to replace the ageing and heavily polluting Kosovo A power plant.
- The European NGO coalition Counter Balance has recently published a short overview of the new energy policies now in place at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). Both banks’ new policies were finalised towards the end of 2013 following extensive consultation with stakeholders from the energy sector, civil society and academia.
- A new report published on March 10 by a team of researchers from the University of Oxford, based on the largest ever study of large hydroelectric dams (245 in 65 countries) has found that in most cases large dams are economically not viable and few, if any, will realise their planned benefits. The study assessed the costs, construction time, and benefits of all large dams built around the world since 1934, and further concluded that the severe cost and construction delays that so often dog large dams (defined in this research as those that exceed 15 metres in height) mean they can be seriously damaging to the economies that attach so much hope to them.