NEWS Kosovo’s Battle for Clean Air and Energy


From the Huff­in­g­ton Post:2015-08-31-1441043029-5728096-LaurenOliviaBurke_Kosovo1-thumb

Last year, $28 bil­lion was col­lec­tively spent on cli­mate finance from six large mul­ti­lat­eral devel­op­ment banks (MDBs). That’s no small feat, but 2,100 new coal plants slated for con­struc­tion world­wide threaten to push us over our global 2°C car­bon bud­get: 276 gigawatts are cur­rently under con­struc­tion and another 1,000 gigawatts are in dif­fer­ent plan­ning stages. These are num­bers that should elicit addi­tional energy invest­ment scrutiny.

The World Bank serves as an ever-​​important actor at the inter­sec­tion of devel­op­ment pol­icy and invest­ment, and will con­tinue to play a crit­i­cal role in exe­cut­ing clean energy strate­gies in the least resource-​​rich regions of the world. How­ever, a par­tic­u­lar pro­posal for a 600-​​megawatt coal-​​fired plant in Kosovo chal­lenges the World Bank’s broader objec­tive to finance low-​​emissions energy devel­op­ment and may result as one of the “rare excep­tions” to its pledge to stop fund­ing new coal projects overseas.

A pend­ing deci­sion to fund this coal-​​fired plant in Kosovo is gen­er­at­ing intense debate. The Kosovo C plant in ques­tion would be the third lig­nite coal plant in a coun­try that pro­duces approx­i­mately 98 per­cent of its energy capac­ity from coal. This is cause for con­cern. Accord­ing to a 2012 World Bank report, air pol­lu­tion in Kosovo causes 835 pre­ma­ture deaths, 310 new cases of chronic bron­chi­tis, 600 hos­pi­tal admis­sions and 11,600 emer­gency vis­its each year. And while the Kosovo C project has stag­nated for over a decade — accru­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in sunk costs — it is now under­go­ing its final envi­ron­men­tal impact assess­ment, and the World Bank will likely vote on whether to autho­rize the project in fall 2015.

Local envi­ron­men­tal advo­cacy groups like Kosovo’s Civil Soci­ety Con­sor­tium for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment (KOSID) and inter­na­tional groups like the Sierra Club are advo­cat­ing for cleaner, cheaper energy alter­na­tives to the pro­posed plant. These groups point out that the pro­posed Kosovo C plant fails to com­ply with the Obama Administration’s Cli­mate Action Plan. More­over, the Sierra Club states in a reportthat the World Bank’s “expert panel failed to ade­quately address sev­eral areas of non-​​compliance with the Strate­gic Frame­work for Devel­op­ment and Cli­mate Change (SFDCC) cri­te­ria. Specif­i­cally, the Kosovo Power Project does not meet the SFDCC cri­te­ria with respect to: devel­op­ment impact; assis­tance for low-​​carbon alter­na­tives; assess­ment of effi­ciency options; assess­ment of exter­nal­ized costs; and poten­tial sup­port for incre­men­tal costs.”

The World Bank’s pro­posed coal-​​fired power plant also com­pli­cates Kosovo’s future as a poten­tial mem­ber state of the Euro­pean Union. This is because the coun­try would strug­gle to meet ever-​​increasing EU renew­able energy stan­dards. At this stage, it is fair to ques­tion what it will take for Kosovo and the World Bank to reach an inflec­tion point and con­sider more eco­nom­i­cal alter­na­tives to coal.


Mov­ing Kosovo Towards a Low Car­bon Economy

For the past four years, the World Bank has eschewed invest­ments in new coal facil­ity gen­er­a­tion, which is unequiv­o­cally a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment. How­ever, the pro­posed brown-​​coal fired plant uses one of the low­est grades of com­bustible rock, pro­duc­ing more car­bon diox­ide emis­sions and volatile mat­ter than any other grade. In addi­tion, it would be located only six miles from Pristina, Kosovo’s most densely pop­u­lated city. In this light, the Kosovo C Plant threat­ens to roll back recent gains the World Bank has made in its com­mit­ment to financ­ing cleaner energy.

I vis­ited Pristina in 2012, and it was clear then that the pub­lic health threats are real. Reck­on­ing with the thick fetor of coal and the feel­ing of inhal­ing diluted soot when walk­ing around town was an unfa­mil­iar chal­lenge. At the end of my trip, I had the lux­ury of being able to leave the city, but for the 198,000 res­i­dents who live in Pristina, long-​​term expo­sure to par­tic­u­late mat­ter build up is an every­day reality.

Back in Cal­i­for­nia, a region with the some of strictest air qual­ity require­ments, Dr. Daniel Kam­men, a UC Berke­ley pro­fes­sor and for­mer World Bank clean energy con­sul­tant, makes the case for adopt­ing clean energy in Kosovo. In each sce­nario that his team mod­eled, they found that coal is more expen­sive to pro­duce in the region than an amal­ga­ma­tion of renew­able energy sources, such as: wind, solar, bio­mass, hydropower and poten­tially geot­her­mal energy. “While the Kosovo story itself is sig­nif­i­cant, all of the nations in this part of East­ern Europe are deal­ing with 1950’s Soviet era tech­nolo­gies and are seen by some as a region of lag­gards, but really this could be a region of clean energy lead­ers,” said Dr. Kam­men, as he addressed an audi­ence of aca­d­e­mics and pro­fes­sion­als at an event in Feb­ru­ary. Right now, Kosovo sits astride vast poten­tials for alter­na­tive energy sources; it’s just a mat­ter of tak­ing the first step.

Ten years ago, coal was the most afford­able resource used to cre­ate energy secu­rity for Koso­vars, which may be why the World Bank first con­sid­ered the Kosovo C coal plant. Today, Kosovo has access to cost-​​effective clean energy alter­na­tives that both address energy secu­rity and cre­ate new vehi­cles of eco­nomic growth in the face of cli­mate change. With the aver­age coal-​​fired power plant last­ing up to 50 years and caus­ing an array of local envi­ron­men­tal and human health issues, I hope this isn’t the energy legacy the World Bank wants to leave behind in Kosovo.


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