Croatia facing unsustainable energy development

Croatia's energy policy is at odds with the EU's new economic model, argues Davor Škrlec.

By Davor Škrlec

13 Oct 2014

The European Union is making a radical shift in economic policy by adopting the circular economy model. The re-industrialisation renaissance of the economy will involve consuming less energy and the rational management of natural resources. However, despite these tendencies on the European level, Croatia is going in the opposite direction.

A thermal power plant powered by imported coal would become ecologically unacceptable in the EU in less than five years. The Plomin C power plant has been declared as a strategic project this summer by the Croatian government. It is being presented as a reconstruction of the Plomin 1 unit, having more than four times the capacity and being located on the Croatian coast in Istria.

"There is a serious need to turn to the use of renewable energy sources, while turning our back on projects that endanger our existence"

The argument of the Croatian ministry of economy and Croatia's national electricity company, Hrvatska elektroprivreda (HEP), is that this project intends to decrease Croatia's dependence on imported electricity and increase the share of renewable energy sources.

However, it will increase Croatia's dependence on imported coal, while the EU is moving towards modernisation of energy sectors and reducing its usage of solid fuels. Furthermore, technology proposed for the thermal power plant is not suitable for supporting intermittent production from renewable energy sources.

The problems that will arise from this project are countless, the most obvious one being pollution. The citizens of Labin are extremely concerned by the pollution from the existing Plomin I and II power plants. The European commission and other bodies of the EU cannot take measures to impede the construction of the Plomin C. Nevertheless, the realisation of the project would prevent Croatia from meeting EU long-term climate goals for CO2 reductions.

It is significant to note that Croatia's entire emissions output will be limited between 1.566 million and 6.264 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually, while emissions of Plomin C would be around 2.644 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Furthermore, the problem also resides with the foreign investor. The Japanese Marubeni corporation was elected as the preferred bidder for the construction and management of the thermal power plant Plomin C, and HEP expects the negotiations with Marubeni to be completed by the end of the year.

This is a great cause for concern because the Marubeni corporation has been sentenced for foreign bribery violations in the US (more on which can be read on the FBI website). The project is economically inefficient without state aid that will guarantee the price of energy, and this is contrary to the rules of the internal electricity market.

The Plomin C project has to be stopped before irretrievable economic and ecological damage is done in Croatia. There is a serious need to turn to the use of renewable energy sources, while turning our back on projects that endanger our existence.

Croatia's Sustainable Development party (ORaH) – as recently presented in its policy of sustainable energy – intends to achieve economic growth and reduce unemployment in Croatia through the transformation of the energy sector into a low-carbon one.

This will be achieved by increasing the share of renewable energy sources in electric and thermal consumption, implementing energy efficiency and investing in innovations and new technologies, especially in modern gas-fired power plants and smart grids.

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