Slovenia chasing last train to fulfil EU energy commitments

Slovenia
Available languages: SL

Considering it inappropriate, the European Commission rejected the first National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) sent to it by the Slovenian Government in 2018. The deadline to provide a new amended version expired in 2019 but has been extended until the end of February 2020.

On 28 January 2020, the Slovenian Infrastructure Minister, Ms Alenka Bratušek, unveiled the complete and revised draft of the NECP, which sets out Slovenia’s energy policy by 2030, looking ahead to 2050. According to the Minister, the document presents an ambitious but optimistically realistic plan for the coming decade of energy development in Slovenia.

The Slovenian Government must adopt the revised draft of the NECP and send it to Brussels no later than by the end of February. Failure to do so could result in Slovenia’s inability to be granted funds directly related to the submission of the NECP draft.

What is new in the revised draft of the NECP

The first draft of the NECP was harshly criticized by the European Commission as unambitious. Is the NECP being adopted now ambitious enough?

The revised draft of the NECP “corrects” some of the following main goals and guidelines that Slovenia aims to reach by 2030:

  • improving its energy efficiency to at least 35 % (in the first draft the goal was set at 20 %),

  • achieving a minimum 27 % share of renewable energy (RES) in final consumption of energy (the same goal was set already in the first draft of the NECP), 43% of which in the electricity sector,

  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 36 % compared to 2005 (15 % in the first draft of the NECP),

  • prohibition of sale and installation of new fuel oil boilers by 2023 (formerly prohibition of sale after 2025).

The new NECP also defines the goals in the following fields more clearly:

  • Decarbonisation, through:

    • gradual reduction and cancellation of fossil fuel incentives or financial subsidies,

    • decarbonisation of electricity production by reducing coal use by 30 % by 2030 and phasing it out by 2050 at the latest, through:

      • stopping unit 5 of the Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant,

      • reducing lignite excavation,

      • abandoning the use of imported coal for electricity production at the Toplarna Ljubljana Thermal Power Plant,

  • Energy Security and the Internal Energy Market, where Slovenia pursues, among other things, reducing its import dependence on fossil fuels and to increase the resilience of the electricity distribution network to interference,

  • Research, Innovation and Competitiveness, where Slovenia shall increase investments in the development of human resources and new skills needed for the transition to a climate-neutral society.

The expert public points out that the revised draft of the NECP is still not ambitious enough and rather inadequate and unrealistic. The critics have pointed out that the failure of the construction of hydro power plants on the middle Sava river is not adequately compensated, as there is a belief that the planned electricity production from solar and wind power plants, as foreseen by the revised NECP, is completely unrealistic. Nuclear power in the NECP, on the other hand, remains in its current scope and the decision on constructing the new unit of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant moves into the year of 2027.

We certainly welcome the goal of decarbonisation and the further reduction of fossil fuel use as it is envisaged with the revised draft of the NECP. However, it cannot be overlooked that agriculture is responsible for about 10 % of greenhouse gas emissions in Slovenia, and that the passenger transport here is based mainly on personal vehicle transport. With the revised version of the NECP, Slovenia has set itself only a 1% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from agriculture. Scarcely set and unambitious are also the goals and guidelines of the NECP regarding the (public) passenger transport. Last but not least, the un-ambitiousness of the NECP is also reflected in the fact that no goals, or at least guidelines, have been defined for the use of geothermal energy, which has great potential in Slovenia.

The RES goal – optimistically realistic or merely optimistic?

It is envisaged with the revised draft of the NECP that the share of RES in final consumption of energy will be 27 % by 2030. Opinions on considering such goal as realistic, optimistic or optimistically realistic are divided.

Parallel with the preparation of the NECP, a document on future spatial development in Slovenia is also being drafted – the Spatial Development Strategy of Slovenia 2050 (SDSS 2050). Within the guidelines for the development of energy infrastructure to support the transition to a low-carbon society, SDSS 2050 defines impacts of various RES on environment and nature, amongst which we would like to highlight following:

  • hydro power: construction of new hydro power plants on the middle course of the Sava river within the next decade is on hold due to the negative impact on biodiversity;

  • wind power: the installation of wind farms in protected areas is not allowed, and the installation of large wind power plants (more than 10 MW) is restricted to areas far away from settlements, and further, only best and most efficient technology (BAT) may be used when exploiting the wind energy;

  • solar power: the installation of solar systems on raw land could have a negative impact on the environment, therefore the use of solar energy is envisaged only on areas of construction land.

Use of hydropower will not significantly contribute to increasing the share of RES. The installation of wind power plants and their spatial placement in protected areas, where the actual wind potential is the highest, will be prohibited from the outset. Currently, 13.3 % of Slovenia's surface is protected by various regimes, and under the draft SDSS 2050, additional 46 areas or an additional 26.7 % of the surface of Slovenia shall be protected, further reducing potential areas for use of wind energy. The installation of solar systems will, on the other hand, be restricted only to land that has already been built on.

Slovenia’s commitment to achieve at least a 27 % share of RES in the final consumption of energy, of which 43% in the electricity sector, could therefore be considered merely optimistic rather than optimistically realistic.

According to the Infrastructure Minister, Slovenia must find appropriate solutions to promote the use of RES in protected areas in the near future, keeping in mind the preservation of natural values. However, will appropriate solutions not be fundamentally limited, if the guidelines for the development of energy infrastructure under the SDSS 2050 are adopted? Are some of SDSS 2050’s guidelines not inconsistent with the NECP?

We believe that the investors in RES will need to be quite innovative for their solutions to follow the national guidelines and thus be acceptable from the perspective of both the NECP and the SDSS 2050.