Published on June 27, 2022

Kosovo’s draft Energy Strategy: many questions remain

, Pippa Gallop (Bankwatch)

Kosovo’s draft Energy Strategy is currently open for consultation. It gives positive signals about renewables and energy efficiency, but key information is still missing.

More than two years after the demise of the Kosova e Re coal project marked a dramatic change in direction for Kosovo’s energy policy, a new draft Energy Strategy is finally open for public consultation until tomorrow.

It shows Kosovo’s welcome intent to move towards a more energy-efficient and renewables-based energy system and to increase market integration with Albania, which will help to increase the power system’s flexibility. It also pays attention to ensuring social justice during the energy transition, particularly with regard to gender. These are all extremely important. But many questions remain.

How is the energy mix expected to change and by when?

No overall renewable energy target is given in the draft – only for electricity. It is true that this target is currently under negotiation with the European Commission but at least a range of possibilities based on the modelling should be provided in the draft.

The Strategy states that Kosovo will build 1400 MW of wind and solar by 2031, including 100 MW of prosumer power. But it is not clear why this figure was chosen, how much electricity will this generate and what percentage of the current coal generation this could displace. Nor is it clear how much capacity is expected to be built in the interim period, or how much potential Kosovo has overall.

It is also not clear which coal units will stop operating when and which modernisation measures are planned in the meantime. Kosova A and Kosova B are to be ‘refurbished’ in the next few years, which according to the Strategy, will cost EUR 390 million. This is a massive amount for such old plants: Kosova A’s three operating units are between 47 and 52 years old, while Kosova B’s two units are approaching 40. Apart from stating that one Kosova A unit will operate in reserve mode from 2028, the Strategy doesn’t explain what modernisation measures will be taken or why they are economically justified.

In addition, an increase of 70 MWth of renewables is planned in the district heating sector till 2025, however there is no clear plan for 2031. 

Mysterious gas and pumped storage plans

The government seems to have realised that there is no point in Kosovo building gas pipelines and becoming locked in to another fossil fuel just as the EU is trying to free itself from a similar predicament. This is very welcome. 

But worryingly, the draft Strategy mentions the idea of building gas plants together with neighbouring countries, and also allocates EUR 200 million for the purpose. Yet no concrete projects are mentioned. From recent media reports, it appears this may refer to a project in Albania, but then why not mention it in the Strategy and explain its pros and cons and what can be done if the project doesn’t go ahead?

Another mystery is the Strategy’s approach towards electricity storage. 170 MW of battery storage is planned in the draft Strategy, with a note that another technology might be used if more feasible at the time. Yet if we take a look at real life projects in Kosovo’s permitting system, there is a 250 MW pumped storage hydropower plant under consideration, which is not even mentioned in the draft Strategy. Again, this might be due to the hot controversies around hydropower in the Balkans and perhaps the government does not want to stir up concerns. But 250 MW is a massive project for Kosovo and it seems odd not to mention it and explain the government’s thinking on it.

What is the expected demand and what will influence it?

Part of the reason for the lack of clarity above is that the Strategy doesn’t explain what demand for electricity, space and water heating is expected by when. Estimating demand is a tricky business indeed and perhaps the government didn’t want to be proven wrong later, but without any information what is expected, it is impossible to assess whether the Strategy meets the needs.

The Strategy mentions that electrification of the transport sector was taken into account in the power demand assumptions but gives no other information about the rate of electrification of the heating and transport sectors that is expected, or measures to achieve it. An overall target for energy efficiency is given in the Strategy, and some scattered commitments are made, such as reducing distribution losses, but overall there is no clear picture of what demand is expected and how it will be managed.

What about household heating?

Although it’s called an Energy Strategy, it is mainly about the power sector and district heating, with the transport sector expected to be covered by a different strategy. Since district heating covers only 3-5 per cent of heat demand in Kosovo, according to the draft, this raises the question of what is planned regarding individual household heating and where this will be covered. Given that many households in Kosovo use electricity for heating, this may have important impacts on electricity demand. Widespread introduction of heat pumps could decrease electricity demand and lessen pressure on the country’s embattled power sector, but it is not clear if anything is planned in this regard.

Just transition

Although some aspects of social justice such as affordability and gender aspects are quite well represented in the strategy, a just transition for the affected coal workers and communities is not worked out in detail. The term ‘just transition’ is used, but without a definition, so it’s not clear if we are all thinking about the same thing.

Strategy vs. Plan

The Strategy has some information about budget implications but lacks measures for implementation. We understand that an action plan should be developed as well, but would expect at least an indication of what is planned e.g. for electrification of the heating sector, reduction of distribution losses, which energy efficiency measures are planned, how the 1400 MW of solar and wind will be made to happen etc.

Overall the Strategy is clearly making an effort to move Kosovo’s energy sector forward, but without more information on the issues above, the overall effect is confusing and difficult to provide good quality comments on. The government has made quite an effort to organise public consultation talks in various cities across Kosovo, which is very welcome and shows good will. Continuing in this vein, ideally a second draft with this extra information would now be published for a further, more informed consultation period.

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