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Renewable Energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the countries with the greatest energy potential in the Western Balkans and Europe. As one of the few in the region, the country is fully sovereign in electricity generation, thanks to its rich coal reserves and extensive hydropower potential. In addition, some of the electricity produced is exported to neighbouring countries.

In 2018, a total of 17,873 GWh of electricity was generated in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Consumption was 13,294 GWh. Most of the electricity was produced in local coal power stations (10,954 GWh). The second most important source was local hydropower plants, which produced 6,300 GWh (35% of total production) in 2018. Coal and water power stations generated more than 96% of all electricity produced.

There are no available accurate statistical data for thermal energy production in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Only a small part of the population, living mainly in larger cities, is connected to the district heating networks. These are steam heating networks using the steam from coal-fired power plants as a by-product of electricity generation, and gas heating networks. Gas is imported from the Russian Federation and, in view of the complicated Russian-Ukrainian relations, Bosnia and Herzegovina has struggled several times with the supply failures of this energy source. Most Bosnian households use individual heating systems. Local coal and wood are used as fuel. Given the socio-economic situation, there are lot of cases where household waste is used as heating fuel.

Bosnia and Herzegovina's current energy independence also has its downside. Most electricity is produced in old coal-fired power plants that do not meet modern environmental standards. This fact in combination with individual heating systems contributes to significant air pollution. Bosnian agglomerations are among the cities with the worst air quality on a global level. The World Health Organization's ranking, which includes 500 cities around the world with the largest air pollution per annual concentration of PM 2.5, includes three Bosnian cities. The city of Tuzla is ranked as 86., Lukavac 89. and Goražde 431. among the cities with the world's most polluted air. In addition, Tuzla is the city with the most polluted air in the whole of Europe. As a result, there is a growing demand for alternative and greener energy sources in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Hydro-energy is currently the most feasible renewable energy source in Bosnia and Herzegovina in comparison to other renewable energy sources. However, according to estimates, only 40% of its potential is now used, thanks to the large hydroelectric power plants on the Neretva and Drina rivers. In 2018, hydroelectric power plants accounted for 35% of electricity production (6,300 GWh), corresponding to almost 50% of Bosnia and Herzegovina's electricity consumption. In the same year, 498.21 GWh were produced in small hydroelectric power stations.

Wind energy potential has only just begun to develop in recent years. In March 2018, the first 50 MW Mesihovina wind power station was opened. In the ten months of its operation, it produced 103.5 GWh, equivalent to 0.58% of the total electricity generation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Given that over 50% of Bosnia and Herzegovina's territory is under forests, energy from wood biomass also has large potential. In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are more than 50 producers of wood biomass producing mostly pellets and briquettes. They produce ca. 300,000 tons of pellets and briquettes annually. However, these are mostly exported to European Union countries where they are sold at a higher price than the Bosnian market. In the local market, biomass remains of lower quality. Current production is insufficient and in the winter months, there is a drastic rise in pellet prices on the local market. It is estimated that there is a need to increase the annual production to 1,000,000 tons to meet both, export needs and needs of the local market. Data on total heat energy produced from wood biomass are not available. Biomass and biogas power stations generated only 8.15 GWh in 2018.

Solar energy is used mostly for individual needs using small solar power stations. The potential of this type of energy is mainly in Herzegovina, where Mediterranean climate prevails. In 2018, 20,65 GWh were produced in local solar power stations.

Geothermal energy represents one of the least explored areas of using renewable energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although historical geological and hydrogeological surveys have confirmed the fact, that mainly in the northern part of the country, there are suitable conditions for using this source of energy, no systematic using of this potentially interesting source of clean energy has been done. In areas where thermo-mineral water penetrates the surface, spa facilities and facilities for exploitation of accompanying gases have been established. The use of this type of renewable energy for heating or electricity production in Bosnia and Herzegovina is minimal and scarce. This is due to the high investment costs required for geological and hydrogeological exploration and the significant risk that the funds invested in the survey will not be valorised. As Bosnia and Herzegovina is a developing country, these financial resources are even harder to find. Some assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina in this area is offered by international development programmes, which are willing to finance exploration of the country's geothermal potential. These programmes include the Czech Development Cooperation of the Government of the Czech Republic, which supports the development of the renewable energy sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The companies GEOtest, a.s. (Brno, Czechia) and GEOTEST d.o.o. Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) have been actively involved in the development of renewable energy sector and utilization of the renewable sources in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last five years as part of the implementation of projects from the Czech Development Cooperation. Projects were mostly concerned with the use of biomass, solar and geothermal renewable energy.

In the field of biomass, projects were implemented for kindergartens in the municipalities of Ljubuški and Novi Travnik. In both kindergartens, old and environmentally unsuitable coal boilers were replaced with a new wood biomass boilers. This resulted in a significant improvement of air quality in the vicinity of kindergartens.

In the solar energy segment, companies GEOtest, a.s. and GEOTEST d.o.o. Sarajevo participated in the implementation of the project of installing solar collectors for the Mostar Hospital. Thanks to the implementation of the project, Mostar Hospital has acquired an environment-friendly hot water production system for the needs of patients and staff. Furthermore, mentioned companies have implemented a project to install solar collectors for family houses in western Bosnia. The aim of this project was to improve the quality of life in isolated mountain areas and to encourage the return of war refugees to their original homes.

In terms of the development of geothermal energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, two major projects were carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the GEOtest, a.s. and GEOTEST d.o.o. Sarajevo. The first one was related to geological exploration and the provision of geothermal energy for the heating of primary school in Ševarlije, in Doboj municipality. The aim of the second project, which is on-going, is to conduct geological and hydrogeological exploration on a potentially interesting locality in terms of the use of geothermal renewable energy in the city of Cazin. In the case of a positive result of exploratory work, GEOtest’s experts will create models for the possible use of renewable geothermal energy in Cazin. The use for energy purposes, i.e. production of heat energy for the needs of the local population, comes into consideration. Furthermore, the possibility of using this type of energy for medical and recreational purposes will be analysed. The possibility of using geothermal energy for agricultural purposes by heating greenhouses will also be taken into account.

Although the system of renewable energy use (except for water potential) is still developing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it must be noted that there has been a dynamic development over the last decade. Aside from the production of energy from the hydroelectric power plants already built in the times of the former Yugoslavia, in recent years there has been a 30% year-to-year growth in electricity generation from renewable energy sources. In terms of heating, for example, the biomass market is growing even faster. Currently, the obstacle to further development is a complicated and inefficient Bosnian government that still fails to fully exploit all the rich potentials in the renewable energy sector that Bosnia and Herzegovina has.

Damir Kasum, GEOtest (Czechia – Bosnia and Herzegovina), kasum [at] geotest [dot] cz