Luan Shllaku: Coal-fired power plant in Kosovo is an obsolete idea

Luan Shllaku-KFOS

In an interview for Buletini Ekonomik, Luan Shllaku, the head of Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, KFOS, speaks on the energy crisis worldwide and the impact in Kosovo. 

Mehmet Gjata and Mirjeta Shabani

In an interview for Buletini Ekonomik, Luan Shllaku, the head of Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, KFOS, speaks on the energy crisis worldwide and the impact in Kosovo.

Reklama e sponzorizuar

Shllaku reveals the most viable options for Kosovo’s energy security while reflecting on the past mistakes from policy makers to invest in building new capacities in the energy sector.

Shllaku further speaks how Kosovo Government should look strategically at the energy sector and what are Kosovo‘s potential in renewable energy as well as building a gas-fired plant in order to replace lignite based energy and other projects that protect environmental pollution.

Below is the full transcript of the interview with Mr Shllaku:

Buletini Ekonomik: After the G-20 agreed to end the funding of coal-fire plants abroad this year: what is your  view on Kosovo’s energy orientation both in short and long terms?

Luan Shllaku: It will not be easy for Kosovo to define the path forward. The world faces numerous energy challenges from those countries who own fossil energy resources and those who are poor and do not have either coal, nor petrol or natural gas. It is clear that we are entering into a new era of energy development and resources of energy that once were looked at as advantageous do not remain the same. I am speaking for countries with non-renewable sources of energy such as Kosovo, with 14 billion tonnes of coal reserves. 

In these challenging times for humanity and the perils from global warming – we should all change. While for some countries it will be difficult to give up on the resources they possess, there will be pressure from leading democratic countries to put pressure on those who do not respect the joint rules.

Buletini Ekonomik: Will it be critical for Kosovo to secure energy up until 2050 when it is envisaged to be the year of carbon free. In this context, is Kosovo financially capable of maintaining the existing power plants in compliance with international standards of environment protection?

Luan Shllaku:  Kosovo will face two main challenges during this phase: to build a strategy that withdraws from the enormous use of coal to produce energy and to design an efficient strategy of building alternative sources to produce energy from hydro, sun and wind. It will not be an easy task but there is no other alternative. If we want to continue with Europe and not with Russia, China or India, we need to respect the rules that European countries have set.

Buletini Ekonomik: Why you are against rebuilding of Kosova A power-plant?

Luan Shllaku: There are many reasons. I will mention just three key ones. There will be no European integration if we continue burning coal, we cannot continue with the enormous pollution as this exacerbates the state of public health and thirdly, we will not gain much from burning the coal as it will be the most costly energy production and the European Union will soon apply carbon tariffs for those countries using the power plants.

Buletini Ekonomik: And why were you so adamant on supporting the natural gas infrastructure as an option for Kosovo for which a heated public debate is still present both in institutional and societal level?

Luan Shllaku: You are right. Natural gas is another fossil but way less polluter to the environment. But likewise, we need to grasp the current energy situation and energy transition needs to be well thought out. Kosovo does not have sufficient alternative energy sources and it is one of the poorest countries in Europe with waters, it has a continental climate, with limited sunny and windy days. 

Certainly, in the future these resources will not sufficiently cover the needs. Thus, we should follow the example of other countries: diversify the energy resources, with minimising the usage of fossils. I think it will be a big mistake if in the next or two decades of energy transition, we will not build pipelines for natural gas, which can reduce the need for other energy sources.

I think that building the gas pipeline would bring two crucial results: First, it would significantly reduce the usage of energy for heating, by building six or seven heating systems in six or seven main cities in Kosovo, that would provide heating for the household. That would result in reducing the consumption of power up to 300 MW, which is similar to building a new power plant. Secondly, if we build a gas-fired power plant, that would pollute the environment many times less than the lignite based energy. Thus, the gas would allow us to develop an alternative system that generates sufficient energy for our needs.

Buletini Ekonomik: In your vision you foresee a gas-fired power plant. An activist and a fanatic fighter for protection of the environment prefers a gas fired power plant although it is known that this energy source is quite a polluter of the environment. How would you explain this contradiction?

Luan Shllaku: I am an enthusiast of clean environment but before all, I am realistic.  Natural gas pollutes twice as much as lignite. But this is not all. Natural gas does not include industrial mining sites and millions of tons exposing dangerous to the environment , and natural gas does not cause water pollution. Thus, for a transitional period until we cannot supply ourselves with alternative energy resources, natural gas remains more appropriate than continuing burning lignite.

Buletini Ekonomik:  According to you, where would natural gas be utilised besides energy production?

Luan Shllaku: In six or seven largest urban cities for heating systems, in main industrial sites. If we would replace these locations with natural gas, the consumption of energy would decrease significantly and this should be the aim of any strategy on energy.

Buletini Ekonomik: Why do you think after the war in Kosovo in 1999, Kosovo practically failed in many energy projects, by leaving many initiatives, visions without being concluded and why Kosovo failed to have forein investors in this sector?

Luan Shllaku: First we failed because constructing a coal-fired plant is anachronistic. Investors would want to benefit from such business but with the introduction of the carbon fee, the prices of energy produced by lignite are higher than those from renewable energy. So there is no profit for them. Also we wanted to build a power plant without investing a penny and foreign investors knew something that our politicians never learned: after 2030, it will be not profitable to operate with a coal-power plant. They [investors] escaped from us not that they were told to leave, but after the Paris Deal and Green Deal, they ran away because there was no profit from such investment.

Buletini Ekonomik: Why did Kosovo in all these years fail to design a long term strategy on energy?

Luan Shllaku: Kosovo’s long-term strategies had the fate of all other strategies that we compiled in other sectors. They became unimplementable and were not realistic. Above all, there was not much capacity in any government to implement any serious project, and the energy sector is a complex field which requires a lot of expertise and commitment, which I have not seen yet in any government.

Buletini Ekonomik: Mr Shllaku, what do you think of Kosovo’s potential in renewable energy?

Luan Shllaku: It’s a dominating direction which we should also walk. We should get the maximum from these resources but in a few decades ahead of us we should do many interventions. I do insist that Kosovo and Albania should have a joint agreement to build a hydro power plant in Albania. We could do it jointly or only us [Kosovo], but not with less than 400-500 MW capacity”.

Buletini Ekonomik: Where do you see the biggest potentials: In the wind energy, solar energy or any other renewable resource when it is known that Kosovo is poor with its water potentials to consider building hydropower capacities?

Luan Shllaku: We should invest in all these sources, as much as we can.

Buletini Ekonomik: And the last question, when does Luan Shllaku think that Kosovars will be more environmentally conscious enough to have a cleaner environment and will we ever achieve this day?

Luan Shllaku:  This is a process that will take time.  There is a long way for all, from citizens, to institutions and firstly those educational institutions, media and those and other institutions. This engagement requires healthy environmental policies which we should all support. /Buletini Ekonomik/

This interview was conducted in Albanian.