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European Energy Community launches dispute against Serbia

Janez Kopac, director of the Energy Community Secretariat, said that according to 2018 data at the Nikola Tesla thermal power plant Obrenovac, gas emissions exceed the planned 4.7 times, and in Kostolac 14 times.

Only when our country reached the top of the list of countries with poor air quality did they begin to look for culprits for environmental concerns. It turns out that the Electric Power Industry of Serbia is by far the biggest polluter, although the company claims to have invested 400 million euros in improving the quality of air, water and land over the last 15 years. This was clearly not enough, as indicated by the analyzes and reports of the Fiscal Council and the State Audit Institution. No one responded to their alarming warnings.

The EC Secretariat launched a preliminary proceeding yesterday against Serbia for incomplete implementation of the Large Combustion Firms Directive on compliance with certain emission limits, which came into force on 1 January 2018, with the aim of giving Serbia the opportunity to respond within two months of allegations of non-compliance with the law and “allowed the secretariat to establish the full background of the case”.

He said filters should be installed in thermal power plants.

– A desulphurization filter was installed at the Kostolac thermal power plant in 2017, but data for 2018 indicate that emissions have not decreased. We do not understand that, Kopac said, adding that their estimates from 2013 indicate that investments of 640 million euros are needed.

The Fiscal Council in the “Business Analysis and Recommendations for Reform and Increase of EPS Investments” draws attention to the fact that the deadline for harmonization of EPS Thermal Power Plants with the provisions of the Integrated Pollution Control and Prevention Act was until 2015. Until then, EPS, in projects of protection of the environment, was supposed to invest a total of 1.2 billion euros. However, about 400 million euros or a third of the plan has been invested by 2018. Considerable progress has been made only in reducing the annual emissions of suspended particulates (about six times), although there are still plants where their concentration in flue gases exceeds the legal limit.

If only Serbia is observed, the estimated economic losses due to air pollution from the thermal power sector (EPSs and thermal power plants in the countries of the region) range between 890 million euros and 1.7 billion euros a year, according to the Fiscal Council, explaining that it relates to direct and indirect costs (health insurance, absenteeism).

The State Audit Institution, which issued a report on auditing the feasibility of the Industrial Waste Management business in December, said in December that 11.6 million tonnes of waste were produced during 2018, of which nine million tonnes refers to industrial waste. About 80 percent of industrial waste produced in Serbia remains at the site of the producer. An additional problem is the hazardous waste of about 90,000 tonnes, which is largely derived from industry. EPS, the largest producer of industrial waste in Serbia, has identified improper treatment of that waste.

– Audit revealed that EPS did not act on the main project of remediation of the closure and reclamation of the ash and slag landfill of Middle Kostolac Island, since the landfill was not closed until July, as foreseen by the main project, so the ash is dispersed into the surrounding settlements and the pollutants are emitted from the landfills which poses a risk to the environment and human health – the report said.

The Action Plan 2010–2014, as an integral part of the Waste Management Strategy, foresees the exploitation of “fly ash” from thermal power plants for road construction, construction and the building materials industry, but this objective, according to the auditor’s findings, has not been achieved. It was determined that of the planned donation of ash to the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure in the amount of 3,630 tonnes for road construction, only 73 tons of ash was realized, so that other raw material was purchased instead, which affected the construction costs. State auditors have determined that the total cost of depositing EPS ashes in 2016-2018 amounted to 80 million euros, Politika reports.