NEWS Op Ed on Energy Pathways for Kosovo and Southeast Europe



The future of coal pass­es through Kosovo

Daniel M. Kam­men and Noah Kittner


In 2013, the World Bank pledged to stop loan­ing mon­ey for new coal ener­gy projects[1], unless no finan­cial­ly fea­si­ble alter­na­tives exist. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has said the same for the Unit­ed States, “Today, I’m call­ing for an end of pub­lic financ­ing for new coal plants overseas—unless they deploy car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies, or there’s no oth­er viable way for the poor­est coun­tries to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty (Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, June 25, 2013)[2],[3].”

In Koso­vo a pro­posed coal-fired pow­er plant has been under dis­cus­sion for over a decade. The prime fun­ders, iron­i­cal­ly, are the World Bank and the U. S. government.

The land­scape of ener­gy no longer favors coal. Renew­able ener­gy and ener­gy effi­cien­cy tech­nolo­gies costs con­tin­ue to plum­met. The World Bank and the U. S. government’s deci­sion to fund this project or not will set a crit­i­cal prece­dent for the future of coal financ­ing, mak­ing Koso­vo the glob­al gate­keep­er for new coal projects.

In fact, coal has become an increas­ing­ly risky invest­ment in terms of ener­gy, cli­mate, and health. In a recent analy­sis per­formed in con­junc­tion with col­leagues from the Balka­ns we have found[4] that the clean ener­gy path is not only bet­ter for human and envi­ron­men­tal health — it is sim­ply less expensive.

The World Bank and the U.S gov­ern­ment now have the oppor­tu­ni­ty and to set the inter­na­tion­al ener­gy and cli­mate invest­ment agen­da. Dis­trib­uted renew­able ener­gy resources and ener­gy effi­cien­cy are sim­ply faster to deploy to meet local needs than the ardu­ous process of build­ing out new cen­tral­ized coal facil­i­ties. Delay on adopt­ing a clean ener­gy pol­i­cy for the region slows down not only the pro­vi­sion of crit­i­cal­ly need­ed ener­gy resources that can spur eco­nom­ic growth, but also the larg­er process of EU inte­gra­tion, which is a region­al priority.

The range of options avail­able to the World Bank to replace an aging coal-fired pow­er plant in Koso­vo allows for tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion that avoids a one-size fits-all approach. Solar, wind, small-scale hydropow­er, bio­mass, and ener­gy effi­cien­cy projects can all com­bine to form a reli­able elec­tric­i­ty mix and shift the con­ver­sa­tion away from sin­gle-tech­nol­o­gy solu­tions. Not every site may be appro­pri­ate for solar, wind, small-scale hydropow­er or bio­mass, but win­ners can emerge based on local con­di­tions. The high­ly adap­tive nature of renew­ables and ener­gy effi­cien­cy invest­ments dis­trib­utes cap­i­tal invest­ment risk instead of chan­nel­ing all resources into coal projects.

New research on the haz­ards of par­tic­u­late mat­ter to human health and the envi­ron­ment from low-qual­i­ty lig­nite coal inten­si­fies the con­cern for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of Koso­vars. Pol­lu­tion con­trol tech­nolo­gies that claim “clean” coal are expen­sive patch­work invest­ments that do not address prob­lems of coal min­ing, cli­mate change, or ash byprod­ucts. A price on car­bon ham­mers the nail in the cof­fin. World Bank Pres­i­dent Jim Kim has already pub­licly advo­cat­ed for the inclu­sion of a $30/​ton car­bon shad­ow price on all pro­posed World Bank projects. There­fore, it only makes sense that coal, the high­est car­bon-emit­ting elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tion source per kilo­watt-hour, becomes the most expen­sive option among the abun­dance of low-cost, low-car­bon renew­ables includ­ing solar, wind, small-scale hydropow­er, bio­mass, and ener­gy efficiency.

The World Bank and the US gov­ern­ment face an his­toric choice and a chance to tip the ener­gy and cli­mate con­ver­sa­tion. They can side with the emerg­ing data and stud­ies of clean ener­gy eco­nom­ics to chart a reli­able low-cost, and low-car­bon path­way to renew­able ener­gy and green jobs. Fail­ure to seize the moment would vio­late the pro­hi­bi­tions on coal projects that each insti­tu­tion has recent­ly pledged. It is time to chart a sus­tain­able path for peo­ple in need of ener­gy now.

[1] World Bank. 2013. Toward a sus­tain­able ener­gy future for all: direc­tions for the World Bank Groups ener­gy sec­tor. Wash­ing­ton DC ; World Bank.’s‑energy-sector

[2] https://​www​.white​house​.gov/​t​h​e​-​p​r​e​s​s​-​o​f​f​i​c​e​/​2​0​1​3​/​0​6​/​2​5​/​r​e​m​a​r​k​s​-​p​r​e​s​i​d​e​n​t​-​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​-​c​h​a​nge

[3] US Trea­sury. 2013. Guid­ance for U.S. Posi­tions on MDBs Engag­ing with Devel­op­ing Coun­tries on Coal-Fired Pow­er Gen­er­a­tion. http://​www​.trea​sury​.gov/​r​e​s​o​u​r​c​e​-​c​e​n​t​e​r​/​i​n​t​e​r​n​a​t​i​o​n​a​l​/​d​e​v​e​l​o​p​m​e​n​t​-​b​a​n​k​s​/​D​o​c​u​m​e​n​t​s​/​C​o​a​l​G​u​i​d​a​n​c​e​_​2​0​1​3​.​pdf

[4] http://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu/​p​r​o​j​e​c​t​/​s​u​s​t​a​i​n​a​b​l​e​-​e​n​e​r​g​y​-​f​o​r​-​k​o​s​o​v​o​-​a​n​d​-​s​o​u​t​h​e​a​s​t​-​e​u​r​o​pe/

Distributed energy and information (satellite TV) in Prizren, Kosovo

Dis­trib­uted ener­gy and infor­ma­tion (satel­lite TV) in Prizren, Kosovo

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