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COUNTRY'S ENERGY CONSUMPTION SHOULD BE DOWN TO EU LEVELS WITHIN DECADE

Slovakia hopes to slash energy usage

SLOVAKS need stronger incentives to be more energy efficient, said the Economy Ministry when introducing the draft of a new national energy effectiveness plan designed to improve the nation's energy consumption habits. The goal is to gradually reduce Slovakia's energy consumption to European Union levels. It would create a 9-percent energy saving between 2008 and 2017.

SLOVAKS need stronger incentives to be more energy efficient, said the Economy Ministry when introducing the draft of a new national energy effectiveness plan designed to improve the nation's energy consumption habits. The goal is to gradually reduce Slovakia's energy consumption to European Union levels. It would create a 9-percent energy saving between 2008 and 2017.

The Slovak cabinet approved the plan, which is to be part of the nation's energy strategy for the next 22 years, on July 4. The strategy's complete blueprint is due by the end of the month.

The draft, which analyses the state of energy consumption in Slovakia, advocates smaller energy effectiveness projects. The Economy Ministry has suggested co-financing the Energy Effectiveness Fund with Sk600 million (€18 million) over the years.

Environmentalists have been calling for a complex energy saving plan involving industry and housing sectors as well as households, while the industry and energy producers remain cautious about the state's possible interventions in the process.

"It is not wise if state subsidies interfere in this process," the spokesman of major electricity producer Slovenské Elektrárne, Juraj Kopřiva, told The Slovak Spectator. "The most effective way is full market deregulation and liberalisation, which leads households and companies to rational behaviour. It would also allow the power industry to invest and develop new technologies."

The best way, according to Kopřiva, is when the electricity distribution companies approach the consumer directly and distribute the power-saving technology together with electricity. Kopřiva referred to the experience of Enel, the Italian majority owner of Slovenské Elektrárne, which distributed power-saving bulbs to Italian households.

But environment watchdogs are calling for even tougher energy discipline and more ambitious energy saving plans on the part of the government.

"The number [9 percent] is underestimated, as the potential of increasing energy effectiveness in Slovakia is much higher," Karel Polanecký, energy consultant for environment watchdog Greenpeace, told The Slovak Spectator. "Just an example: almost one third of primary electricity consumption goes to heating. Pilot projects show that in a classic concrete block of flats, which annually needs 500 MJ per square metre for heating, available technologies can reduce the energy consumption to third of the current level. It really shows that the 9-percent saving plan is not enough."

In Slovakia there are serious shortcomings in effective electricity consumption in all sectors, including households, industry, services and transportation, said Polanecký. According to the consultant, even the country's industry has a very high energy demand.

"Speaking generally, Slovakia spends almost twice as much energy as the average developed European country to produce one unit of GDP," said Polanecký.

According to the electricity transmission network Slovenská Elektrizačná Prenosová Sústava, Slovakia's domestic production of electricity in 2006 came to a total of 30.94 terawatt hours, while domestic consumption came to 29.19 terawatt hours.

The European Union plans to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020 and has been calling on member states to adjust to plans to reduce dependency on imported oil. The EU also wants to see its spending on energy reduced by €100 billion annually, according to the Euractive website. EU25's energy dependence on imports rose from 54 percent in 2004 to 56 percent in 2005, Eurostat data show.

Meanwhile, the Economy Ministry restated that it considers the use of nuclear energy as "economically effective and environmentally acceptable." Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek said that the nuclear power is a possibility for diversifying the electricity production in Slovakia, the SITA newswire wrote.

The new energy policy should also answer the question pertaining to the possibility of building new nuclear power stations in Slovakia. However, Slovakia has already said that the third and fourth blocks of the Mochovce nuclear power plant will be completed by Slovenské Elektrárne.

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