May 26 (SeeNews) - The Western Balkan countries are actively planning to build 2,800 MW of new coal plants and just 1,166 MW of wind power plants (WPPs) in the next five years, in sharp contrast to their commitments to raise the share of renewable energy in their energy mix, Praha-based non-governmental organisation CEE Bankwatch Network said on Thursday.
The construction cost of the planned coal power plants amounts to over 4.5 billion euro ($5 billion) while the investments in the planned wind projects adds up to 1.9 billion euro, Bankwatch said in its latest report, which covers Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
The Western Balkans' investment plans contrast sharply with the situation in the EU, where most countries are giving up building new coal plants and seven EU states are already coal-free. Furthermore, they run counter to the countries' commitments to increase their share of renewable energy by 2020 to reach between 25 and 40% of their energy mix, as part of their obligations under the Energy Community Treaty.
Wind investments have been struggling in the Western Balkans so far, the report noted. The 36.8 Bogdanci I WPP in Macedonia and the 9.9 MW Kula wind park are the only significant wind generators in commercial operation to date. "The reasons for this are varied and range from illogical permitting procedures and undeveloped legislation to lack of political will to move the projects forward," it commented.
There is no lack of investors and more and more wind farm projects are being developed, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. However, even as the legislative framework is improving, projects are held back by restrictive grid connection quotas.
Bankwatch has identified at least 2,587 MW of additional wind projects whose status is either unclear or are likely to be seriously delayed due to grid connection quotas.
Energy efficiency improvements, solar and wind projects can all be delivered more quickly than new coal power plants, and in the long-run are likely to turn out better value for money, Bankwatch noted.
"Costs of wind and solar are falling fast, while higher environmental standards mean that new coal power plants are finally starting to pay their real costs. On joining the EU, Western Balkans countries will have to start paying for CO2, which will further erode the economics of coal, just as it has happened in the EU," it commented.
CEE Bankwatch Network monitors the activities of international financial institutions which operate in Central and Eastern Europe and promotes environmentally, socially and economically sustainable alternatives to their policies and projects.
($= 0.8934 euro)