The residents in the cities and communities around Kosovo A, the country’s 50-year-old coal-fired power station, will no longer be exposed to periodic clouds of fine ash particles after the practice of open dry-ash dumping—at an estimated rate of more than one-half a million tons a year—has now stopped for good. The Kosovo Energy Corporation replaced the open system of ash transport with a new closed hydraulic system, as part of a project co-financed by the World Bank.
The new ash transport system—together with a new electrostatic filter installed in a power plant stack—was inaugurated at a public ceremony last week, attended by officials from the Energy Corporation of Kosovo, the Government of Kosovo, the World Bank, and other donor organizations supporting environmental improvements in Kosovo’s outdated energy sector.
“Today’s event marks a truly historical turning point”, said World Bank Director for Southeast Europe Ellen Goldstein. “Breathing in ash dust has had significant health impacts, and it has been one of several contributory factors to life expectancy in Kosovo being about five years less than comparable figures in neighboring countries”, she added.
The ash dumps posed a particular health hazard in Kosovo, reflecting the fact that the dust from ash dumping was at ground level—meaning that it had a much lower dilution factor compared the dust emitted through the stacks. Henceforth, the hydraulic system converts the ash into wet ash slurry and transports it from the power plant into an exhausted mine underground. The new hydraulic ash system is designed to use a water-ash ratio of 1:1, which means that it is fully in line with best available techniques for ash handling, representing good environmental practice in line with international standards.
The Managing Director of Kosovo Energy Corporation (KEK), Arben Gjukaj, underlined that hydraulic transport of ash was one of several environmental improvements made by KEK and worth a total of €40 million, with the objective of ensuring that people in the neighboring municipalities could breathe more freely.
The halt of open dumping of fresh ash has placed KEK in a position to conclude the work on remediation of the last part of the ash dump—stabilizing, reshaping, and sealing it so as to stop any dust arising from the dump.
The World Bank has co-financed the hydraulic ash system with €1 million, helping to transform the ash transport from a conveyor system to a closed hydraulic system, with the remainder of the investment having been covered by KEK, which is deriving not only environmental but also economic benefits from this investment, increasing the security of energy supply.
The support was part of the Kosovo Energy Sector Clean-Up and Land Reclamation Project (CLRP), which has been addressing the legacy of some 50 years of coal-fired power generation. Producing about one-third of the domestically generated electricity, Kosovo A emitted vast quantities of ash into the surrounding area, polluting the air and creating a hill of ash visible from the capital ten kilometers away. With support from the World Bank, the Government of Kosovo has rehabilitated most of the ash hill and stopped its slide towards neighboring houses. Almost 156 hectares of ash that have been disposed at the ash dump have been leveled, reshaped, and covered by soil. The project has already financed the planting of over 100,000 trees on overburden dump areas, which have also been stabilized. In addition, more than 4,500 metric tons of highly toxic materials, found in an abandoned gasification plant associated with the power plant, have been exported and disposed in licensed disposal facilities within the EU and more than 13,000 tons of moderately toxic materials been treated locally.
The Kosovo Energy Sector Clean-up and Land Reclamation Project has been supported with US$13.65 million, consisting of World Bank grant funding of US$10.5 million and a contribution from the Kosovo Energy Corporation of US$3.15 million. Activities were also supported by a grant of around US$3.81 million from the Government of Netherlands. On May 10, 2013, the World Bank approved an Additional Financing of US$4.2 million in credit to continue addressing environmental issues, remove any remaining hazardous chemicals from the old gasification site, and build capacity for environmental good practices in the mining and energy sector. This support is again being accompanied by a separate grant from the Government of the Netherlands of around US$1.13 million.
Ending dry-ash dumping, removing all toxic materials, and installing the filters on Kosova A’s stacks, KEK has taken very significant steps in minimizing the environmental and health impacts that are emanating from this 50-year-old power plant. However, while the improvements are substantial and immediate, further rehabilitation and replacement investments are urgently required to be able to modernize electricity generation to ensure that Kosovo will be able, in the foreseeable future, to have a mix of secure, affordable, and clean sources of energy generation that will be all compliant with all environmental standards prevailing in the EU.
The World Bank plans to continue to support Kosovo in its very substantial efforts to achieving these objectives. At present, the World Bank is preparing several new activities and projects in the energy sector, including projects on (i) energy efficiency and renewable energy; (ii) rehabilitating the Ibër-Lepenc Canal, with a view to ensuring water security in central Kosovo; and (iii) facilitating a state-of-the-art replacement investment in power generation with a Partial Risk Guarantee.