In order to enable low-carbon, sustainable energy development in line with EU requirements, Kosovo should promote the use of renewable energy resources, officials said.
Coal is currently used to generate about 90 percent of the electricity consumed in Kosovo, and is a key contributor to high carbon dioxide levels and pollution.
With the adoption of the Energy Secretariat Ministerial Council's decision on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources in December 2012, Kosovo committed to making 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.
"It would be unrealistic to envisage complete electricity production from coal thermo power plants with renewables. And we have to take into account that all renewable resources, except big hydro power plants, still need a subsidy scheme. Subsidies have to be bigger if the price of electricity is going to be below the production costs," Janez Kopac, director of the Energy Community Secretariat, told SETimes.
Kosovo recently drafted a National Renewable Energy Action Plan, which set targets for electricity generation, transport and heating and cooling. The plan sets a roadmap and measures of how Kosovo will reach its target by 2020.
"Decision-makers and developers of energy projects should conduct environmental impact assessments, follow high EU environmental standards and use the best available technologies to reduce air pollution and the associated public health impacts of energy projects. Existing coal-fired thermal power plants in Kosovo have a highly negative environmental impact," Kopac said.
Kosovo's Ministry of Economic Development said its policies are based on EU demands.
"The policies of Kosovo on the construction and revitalisation of energy production capacities are based on the requirements of the European Union for the environment and the efficient use of energy resources," the ministry told SETimes.
Rinora Gojani, a researcher for the Kosovo Institute for Development Policy, said coal-generated power is not a sustainable solution for Kosovo.
"Kosovo needs to explore all energy resources. But first of all, it needs to explore energy efficiency measures. A 'negawatt' is better than a megawatt, meaning energy that is saved as a result of a proper usage is much better than additional generation," she told SETimes.
Gojani said Kosovo has good renewable energy sources. She noted that a study conducted by Daniel Kammen, an energy scientist at the University of California Berkeley, shows that Kosovo can cover 38 percent of its energy consumption from wind, hydro and solar potential.
Kosovo authorities admit, however, that it will be a challenge.
"Finding a balance between meeting the needs for energy and not damaging the environment and therefore health, is a challenge for which it is required to develop appropriate strategies to satisfy all the parties to the extent possible," the ministry of economic development told SETimes.
Citizens living in the area of Obliqi/ Fushe Kosova, in the Pristina suburbs where thermo power plants are, suffer the consequences of coal-based production energy. Resident Durime Sinani said his family bought an apartment there because the prices of the apartments are cheaper, but it is "a very bad place to live."
"We do not open the windows because of the smell and pollution. It is difficult to get the clothes dry because we have to find a time when we can get them out in the balcony. Only those who cannot make a better choice of shelter live here," Sinani told SETimes.