Photo: courtesy of Nikola Rajaković

The current situation in our energy sector is certainly worrying and with a tendency to be subjected to additional uncertainties. While we are somehow used to being dependent on imported oil and gas, this very dependence when it comes to the import of electricity is much more difficult for us, which brings up a logical question – how did we become importers even in the power sector?

There are many reasons for this. We have not built new production capacities for more than three decades (practically since the 350MW Kostolac B2 and the 80MW Pirot hydropower plant were put into operation in the late 1980s). We have not prepared the mining capacities well enough, so now we are having difficulties with the quality and quantity of coal, and outdated thermal energy capacities can no longer perform as well as we were used to in the past. When you add to this the terrible management of the electricity industry in the last few years, it is not surprising that we have become importers.

When it comes to energy, timely action is essential. Thus, today the delayed construction of Kolubara B (planned originally in the 1980s, as a 2x350MW facility, with 35 per cent usability) is almost a failure because everything has changed since (technologies, attitude towards environmental protection, etc.). At the beginning of this century, a timely decision would be to build a new 700MW block in TENT B3, with usability exceeding 42 per cent. Such missed opportunities are never coming back.

Today, with the eagerly awaited Kostolac B3 unit, which usability stands at 35 per cent and should be included in the power grid as of next year, we are only correcting bad and late decisions in thermal energy. Namely, that block should have been built with better performance and in a much shorter time frame.


What should we do next? 

The aim is not to give the impression of complete hopelessness. That would also send a bad message. There is the light at the end of the tunnel, as evidenced by the data showing that wind farms (of over 400MW capacity) have already been built, that the gas thermal power plant in Pančevo has become operational and that we expect a lot from the new large solar power plants (which can be included in the grid in the fastest possible way), as well as new wind farms and biogas power plants.

What’s the situation like in Europe and the rest of the world?

Photo-illustration: Pixabay (LCEC)

The energy transition, also known as decarbonization (abandoning fossil fuels and turning to renewable energy sources), was in full swing in Europe in the last decade when it collided with the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. As a result, we have reduced deliveries of Russian gas and disruptions in supply chains. Perfidious geopolitical games have replaced engineering and economic logic in energy. Today absolutely everything is in turmoil – interrupted gas supplies, on the one hand, and full gas storages in Europe, on the other. Extremely high prices on the wholesale electricity and gas markets, searching for new gas supply routes from different suppliers and contemplating what and how to proceed.

The decision-makers in our region finally understood that energy must be viewed in the short, medium and long term, and not only from election to election or as a lever for mitigating social inequalities. Developed countries have long treated energy as a profitable and sustainable branch of the economy. We hope to take that approach.

Savings and restrictions

In the short term, it is anyone’s guess whether we will have restrictions on the electricity supply in Serbia and the region this and in upcoming winters. The answer is that the probability of such a scenario is extremely low but not impossible. Namely, extreme cold that lasts for several weeks and a bad hydrological situation can make that scenario more likely. That is why, both in the short and medium term, the construction of production capacities must be accelerated, energy efficiency must be constantly improved, and energy savings must increase. Production has to be higher on both ends – through the construction of large power plants (centralized production method) and decentralized small production units closer to consumption (solar panels, biomass power plants, biogas). Namely, modern energy is based on the axiom that only by using hybrid solutions, which include energy storage, can the optimum energy mix be found. This second distributed type of energy production gives all citizens, companies and local governments the opportunity to contribute to the energy transition and help the democratization of the sector in terms of weakening the monopoly position of power companies.

Author: Professor Nikola Rajaković, PhD

Read the story in the new issue of the Energy portal Magazine RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS.