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Suspicious tender and public invitation of the Ministry of Mining and Energy for the selection of a strategic partner for the construction of solar power plants

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The Ministry of Mining and Energy has announced a public call for the selection of a strategic partner for the construction of solar power plants with a total installed capacity of 1 GW, with battery systems for storing electricity. The project, which is implemented according to the “turnkey” system, obliges the strategic partner to hand over the power plants to the management of EPS after 2 years from the construction and commissioning of the facilities. Locations for the construction of a total of five or more independent solar power plants have not yet been selected, and the total number and locations will be proposed by the strategic partner, while the implementation plan is adopted by the Working Group in charge of monitoring the project.

However, what catches the eye when reading the public invitation are the conditions required of interested bidders, which are unusual to say the least. It is unclear, namely, why certain criteria are important for the realization of a project of this type, such as the condition that the bidder has more than 5,000 employees, as well as that in each of the previous three years it had an annual turnover of 4.5 billion euros. It would be interesting to get information on how many companies on a global level meet these two conditions cumulatively. It would also be interesting to hear why the Ministry decided on these figures and setting these conditions.

Another, perhaps even more serious problem is that the economic parameter – the financial offer for the implementation of the projects – was not taken as a criterion for the selection of bidders at all. Namely, bidders are ranked by points (maximum 100 points) which are awarded based on four criteria: 1. Business (offered total installed power of battery systems), 2. Human resources (number of engineers with required licenses and installation technicians), 3. Warranty period (refers to the warranty on key components, such as: panels, inverters, transformers and batteries) and 4. Technical characteristics (also refers to the mentioned key components).

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However, the offered price is not at all a criterion for deciding and choosing a bidder. Thus, hypothetically, it would be possible that in the event that one bidder who collects 87 points and offers to implement the project for the amount of 2 billion euros, he would be ahead of the bidder who collected 86 points and made an offer of 700 million euros, only because he gave a year shorter warranty on the battery. This is especially strange when you take into account the value of such a project, as well as the fact that in practice, when it comes to the implementation of public procurements that are implemented under the law of the same name in the Republic of Serbia (the application of which is excluded here), the lowest submitted offer is taken as a key criterion when selecting a bidder.

Finally, the legal framework established by the Law on the Use of Renewable Energy Sources is such that, in a specific case, the Government of Serbia could declare this project as a project of importance for the Republic of Serbia and determine the public interest in the expropriation of sites for the construction of these plants, and construction in protected areas, including here even the 1st degree of protection, which directly overrides the application of other positive regulations of the Republic of Serbia.

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