SEE TOP 100: Mix of nuclear/renewables to help SEE meet energy demand, goals - Part 1
Any debate over the phasing out of nuclear reactors currently in operation in Southeast Europe (SEE), which account for nearly 15% of the region’s electricity supply, is off the agenda for now even in the aftermath of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant (NPP) earlier this year. What is more, SEE countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia plan to bulk up their nuclear capacity going forward.
The analysis was featured in the fourth edition of SEE TOP 100, the annual ranking of the biggest companies in Southeast Europe published earlier this month by SeeNews.
The region will perhaps choose a course of development for its energy industry that will avoid a clash between nuclear and renewable energy interests and the SEE countries will instead focus on ensuring the safety and reliability of power generation.
Keeping the generation curve higher
In 2010, SEE electricity demand remained almost flat on the year, recording a slim 1.4% increase to 188.1 terawatthours (TWh), while production rose nearly 9.0% to 211.1 TWh. The average increase in electricity production across SEE stood at 13.7%. It was highest in Albania and Montenegro due to extremely favourable hydrological conditions, while Kosovo and Slovenia registered a drop in their production by 5.8% and 4.1%, respectively.
Keeping generation higher than the demand for electricity is crucial for the countries in the region, as most of them are net importers. Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Moldova were the countries where electricity consumption surpassed the output of the local power plants in 2010, while Bosnia, Bulgaria and Romania covered their domestic demand and had reserves to export. Bulgaria, for instance, produced almost 13 TWh above its demand curve.
However, the electricity balance in SEE is delicate with electricity demand seen rising 2.5%-3.0% per year by the Institute of Energy for South-East Europe (IENE). Back in 2008 consultancy firm KPMG and German research institute European Stability Initiative warned that unless SEE countries invest in new power plants, the region would become increasingly dependent on electricity imports in the following years. Energy trading and investment company EFT Group argues that electricity demand in the region will remain higher than production because additional generation capacity would not be delivered before 2012.
In 2010 Romania issued 48 green certificates for electricity production from renewable sources, including 26 for wind farms and 18 for hydro power plants. Croatia has a pipeline of over 350 renewable projects at different stages of the permitting process, including 137 wind farms and 91 small hydro power plants. Serbian power utility Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) has calculated that the unused potential for small hydro power plants (SHPPs) in the country stands at some 1,700 gigawatthours (GWh). Macedonia and Montenegro regularly announce tenders for construction and concession of SHPPs, attempting to make use of their hydro potential. In February 2011, Macedonia called an international tender to award a design-build-operatetransfer concession on 44 SHPPs. Also at the beginning of 2011, Montenegro invited potential investors to a tender for the construction and operation of SHPPs at eight sites.
The geography of the region allows for the development of all types of renewable sources, yet wind, sun and water are the most popular options.
The power of wind across the region exceeds 7.0-8.0 metres per second, with Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and especially Romania, benefiting most from their location and relief. Bosnia’s wind potential is estimated at 2,000 megawatts (MW) while Bulgaria could develop wind projects of up to 3,400 MW, according to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Romania’s wind capacity leapt to 462 MW in 2010 from a modest 14 MW a year earlier.
Electricity production from photovoltaic installations in the region is also considered to have potential. Several areas in Albania enjoy over 2,000 hours of solar irradiation a year, Bosnia’s capacity for solar power is estimated at some 1,900 TWh, Macedonia has untapped resources to produce 10 GWh of solar energy per year. Montenegro has outstanding solar irradiation levels, gathering nearly 50% of all possible sun rays for a year. Serbia offers almost 40% higher annual levels of solar irradiation that the average in Europe.
Hydro power is vital for SEE electricity generation since it is the most widely used resource, apart from fossil fuels and nuclear energy. More than 50 large rivers flow in the region, delivering some 19,344 MW of installed hydro capacity, according to KPMG’s Central and Eastern European Hydro Power Outlook. Unfortunately, the countries utilise less than half of their technical potential. Although water is a renewable resource, only the SHPPs with an installed capacity of 10 MW or less are recognised as truly renewable. KPMG’s Hydro Power Outlook shows that SHPPs account for 8.4% of the total installed hydro capacity in SEE.