Renewable push not moving fast enough

THOUGH increasing renewable energy use is among Slovakia’s priorities, renewable advocates say the steps the government has taken are not enough.

THOUGH increasing renewable energy use is among Slovakia’s priorities, renewable advocates say the steps the government has taken are not enough.

As a member of the European Union, it has signed on to a EU-wide plan to increase the entire union’s share of renewable energy sources among all primary sources of energy consumed to 20 percent by 2020. In terms of its national strategy passed in 2008, Slovakia’s target for exploiting renewable sources of energy is to achieve a 14-percent share of all primary sources of energy consumed by 2020.

Though the governments have passed several measures to achieve this goal, Juraj Novák from the department of energy and raw materials policy of the Economy Ministry said in late-September that the country will probably change its support for the production of energy from renewable energy resources.

According to him, Slovakia failed to achieve three main goals of the EU energy policy plan: security, competitiveness and sustainability, the website reported.

The Economy Ministry does not publish exact figures on the total share of electricity produced from renewable energy resources. According to the latest report monitoring the supplies of electricity, the share of energy produced from renewable energy resources and from corporate power plants was 11.6 percent in 2013.

Slovenské Elektrárne (SE), the country’s dominant electricity producer, produced together 4,583 GWh of total 22,843 GWh of electricity from renewable resources last year. It also launched a new small water power plant Dobšiná III in the first quarter of this year. The power plant should save more than 1,900 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year in electricity production compared to production of electricity from coal, SE spokeswoman Jana Burdová told The Slovak Spectator.

Associations promoting the use of renewable energy resources are, however, more sceptical about the current steps the government has made in this area.

“I would evaluate the steps of the state as chaotic, with persisting negative impacts,” Ladislav Židek, the general director of Biomasa, an association that promotes rational utilisation of renewable energy sources and the potential of biomass in Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator.

Židek says that Slovakia does not fully realise the potential of renewable energy resources and considers the attempts to achieve the goals “a game of numbers” that can be modified as one wants.
Pavel Šimon of the Slovak Association of Photovoltaic Industry (SAPI), whose aim is the sustainable support of all renewable energy sources and development of the photovoltaic industry, says that instead of reasonably managed development of the renewable energy resources, the government allowed the development of big investment projects, including photovoltaic power plants on green fields. According to him, the state started to regulate the projects too late.

“This regulation does not apply on already-realised investment projects, but on new small projects that could be created in places of consumption,” Šimon told The Slovak Spectator.

Using renewable resources

Of the various kinds of renewable sources of energy, Slovak energy firms harness the sun, water and biomass. The Economy Ministry considers biomass to be a priority. Its use can in many cases compete with fossil fuels in terms of prices, according to the national action plan on renewable energy resources.

The action plan also suggests that the increased use of biomass, energy savings and use of geothermal and solar energy will lead to lower consumption of natural gas used for heating.

Moreover, the state plans to support building water power plants as prevention from floods that are the result of heavy rainfall, one of the consequences of climate change.

The action plan further counts with an increase in the biofuels of the second generation around 2020, which should significantly contribute to achieving the aim of a 10 percent renewable share in the transport sector.

The goals for using the renewable energy resources are also part of the state’s energy policy, adopted in 2006. Though the ministry prepared a new draft document which it submitted to the Government Office in late May 2014, it still has not been passed.

One step towards improving the situation in the market with electricity was the law on supporting renewable sources of energy passed in 2009 which, among other things, defined the direction for electricity production. The law has since been changed several times, however. The latest, 11th amendment to the law was passed in October 2013 and came into force in January 2014.

The new rules, among other things, changed the conditions for supporting devices with performance higher than 125 MW, through increasing the amount of renewable energy resources in fuels from 20 to 30 percent, the TASR newswire reported.

They also are allowed to support gases created as a by-product in metallurgical production process whose aim, according to the Economy Ministry, was to support domestic sources of energy in order to decrease the country’s dependency on imported primary energy resources.

Šimon, however, suggests that to improve the use of renewable energy resources, the government should rather create and maintain a stable environment and create mechanisms that will be able to check and approve the support for small projects using the renewable energy resources more effectively.

Židek suggests that when it comes to improving the situation, it is not about the steps of the government, but rather about the morale of people.

Ukraine’s impact

The ongoing Ukrainian-Russian conflict and reduced supplies of gas pose questions about the energy security of Slovakia. According to SAPI, the one-sided dependency on fossil fuels from Russia threatens the energy security of the country, so it is necessary to adopt concrete steps to diversify the energy resources in Slovakia. The seriousness of this situation is proved also by the information recently published by The New York Times which showed that up to 98 percent of raw materials of Slovakia come from Russia, which makes Slovakia the most dependent country on Russian raw materials exports, SAPI wrote in a press release.

Though this situation could open the discussion over using more renewable energy resources, Židek said he expected a bigger change in the attitude of the government, like mass investments and demand for alternatives. People seem to like not believing that the conflict is close to us and ignoring the possibility they will have nothing to heat with during winter, he said.

Though some people are aware of the real threat the winter may bring and invest in alternative resources, “the total percentage of the growth [in these alternatives] is the same as before the Ukrainian-Russian conflict”, Židek said.

Except for Ukraine, there is another threat to the energy resources: the Islamic State militant movement which operates in the area that could serve as an alternative to Russian sources of oil and natural gas, Šimon said.

“It seems to me that our government and leaders of this state behave like nothing has happened, as though the world is safe and is facing no crisis,” he added.

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