Western Balkans hydropower: Who pays, who profits?
Posted on 26 September 2019
Fuelled by generous state-sponsored feed-in tariffs that contradict EU guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy, the number of hydropower plants small hydropower plants in the Western Balkans quadrupled between 2009 and 2018.Whilst the speed of development on solar and wind power projects has been glacial, in 2018 no less than 70 per cent of renewable energy incentives awarded in the region benefited small hydropower. Despite this support, small hydropower only generated 3.6 per cent of total electricity.
This boom in small hydropower has also caused public outrage across the region as rivers and streams, often in ecologically valuable and protected areas like the Stara Planina Nature Park in Serbia and Valbonë Valley National Park in Albania, have been dammed and put into derivation pipes, leaving riverbeds dry and the communities who depend on them without vital sources of water.
The incentive schemes have lost credibility among the public by benefiting well-connected business people. For instance:
- North Macedonia’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Kocho Angjushev - owns at least 27 small hydropower plants - and the president of the main opposition party, Hristijan Mickoski also holds at least 5 concessions.
- In Serbia, companies connected to Nikola Petrović, the best man (kum) of President Aleksandar Vučić, are among the top beneficiaries of hydropower support.
- Montenegro’s renewables incentives system has mainly benefited people close to the President, Milo Đukanović.