Serbia eyes 17 bln euro investment in renewable energy in next 20 years

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Serbia must invest 17 billion euros ($19.6 billion) in renewable energy sources like hydro and solar over the next 20 years to replace ailing coal-fired plants and secure supply to meet rising demand, the country’s energy and mining minister said.

Serbia and its neighbours, Bosnia and Kosovo, all heavily reliant on coal for power production, are under pressure to reduce their fossil fuel footprint and pollution as they aspire to join the European Union.

“We are talking about investments over the next 20 years that are at a minimum of 17 billion euros,” Zorana Mihajlovic, who is also Serbia’s vice premier, told Reuters in an interview.

Mihajlovic said that the transition from coal to cleaner energy sources cannot happen quickly as Serbia produces two thirds of electricity in its ageing thermal power plants.

“By 2040 or 2050 we should have zero lignite (consumption) … while building new (production) capacities at the same time,” she said.

The new energy production should include new hydropower, solar and wind plants and last month, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic had said Belgrade was also considering a stake in the expanded Paks nuclear plant in neighbouring Hungary, which must be first approved by the EU.

In 1989, the now-defunct Yugoslavia, of which Serbia was part, introduced a moratorium on building nuclear facilities, but it does not prevent it joining projects abroad, Mihajlovic said.

Mihajlovic said that in order to secure stable natural gas supplies, mainly from Russia, Serbia wants to expand storage capacity of the northern Banatski Dvor facility to 800 million cubic meters, from 450 million cubic meters.

It also plans to start construction of a new gas pipeline to neighbouring Bulgaria worth around 85 million euros this month and diversify its gas supplies.

“The (future) … pipeline will allow us from 2023 to connect to Azerbaijan’s gas (supply) and a new pipeline that goes from Israel, the East Mediterranean pipeline,” she said.

On Nov. 1, Bulgaria halted the transport of Russian natural gas to Serbia and Hungary after a pipeline rupture, forcing Belgrade to make emergency purchases.

The Banatski Dvor facility is owned by Russia’s Gazprom  which has a 51% stake while Serbia owns the remainder.

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