Dear Ministers Ismajli and Agani,
Dear Member of Parliament Ymeri,
Dear representatives of Government, state institutions, Kosovo Energy Corporation, development partners, and media,
Dear organizers, ladies, and gentlemen,
It is a vision as much as a fundamental requirement for Kosovo’s socio-economic development—energy that is available consistently, energy that remains affordable in a country with high rates of unemployment and poverty, and energy that is generated within the stringent environmental constraints defined by the EU. Supply options, price effects, alternative energy mixes, environmental impacts, the potential of integrating renewable sources of energy, including required steps and policy reforms to make that happen, the need to reduce distribution losses—, Kosovo has been debating these interrelated topics for years to find an energy consensus and a shared view and attempt to square the circle among competing objectives. There is no disagreement on what Kosovo wants and needs (secure, affordable, clean energy), and there is no disagreement on what it does not want (continued power outages, electricity prices beyond the means of citizens, residents, and firms, and the continued pollution from electricity generation).
Kosovo has been serious in these efforts, in its efforts to ensure that the country’s emerging energy mix currently prepared will set off accelerated rates of development and improved social welfare. In this respect, my colleagues agree with me, Kosovo deserves respect for its sincerity, maturity, and commitment. With all its constraints as lower middle income country, Kosovo is preparing and starting to:
- decommission a 50-year-old power plant that is fragile, polluting, and inefficient;
- address environmental legacy issues, from stopping the practice of piling up open ash dumps, the proper treatment of all toxic materials from gasification inside and outside the country, to getting a handle on the air pollution emitted from current generation activities;
- respect all EU environmental standards on emissions and efficiency, by making every effort to ensure that energy-sector investments planned to be realized in Kosovo are such that they could be built inside the EU as well;
- create a unified energy market with its western neighbor so as to ensure a cross-boundary energy mix that increases energy security and reduces average prices;
- preparing the ground—and creating a legal basis—for fostering private-sector investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy;
- consulting with all stakeholders and development partners, consistently and over the span of years (to which today’s event serves as proof); and
- showing patience and flexibility in incorporating constructive comments, suggestions, and proposals from all stakeholders, including civil society, into its energy strategy, having resulted in substantial changes to initial plans.
It is, of course, not my role to suggest who should appreciate whom (or whose role) in the comprehensive, multi-faceted, and engaged energy debate that has been unfolding over the course of a period that is longer than the country’s history.
While the energy debate—for as long as it took—has improved the quality of Kosovo’s energy strategy, found a sustainable balance between competing objectives, and culminated in a set of policies that ensures that, in the end, as much renewable energy will be included in the energy mix as is economically viable and as much coal as is absolutely necessary. A year ago, in the same context, I referred to it as a “minimal core consensus”—a characterization that was not intended to have a soporific effect, as was thought by some, but to express a sense of appreciation and respect for the quality of a public debate that has helped to improve, and put on a solid foundation, Kosovo’s current energy strategy.
But with the time that has passed since, it is becoming more and more urgent that Kosovo addresses outstanding challenges of ensuring available, affordable, and clean energy for its households and firms. This winter was mild, and this has helped to avoid frequent and lasting power outages of the type that has made the winter two years ago exceptionally tough and testing. Clearly, no-one is helped by an energy crisis a few years down the road, by energy shortages—with all the effects that these would have on jobs and income. Every effort undertaken to create employment and income, to reduce poverty, and to close the income gap with other countries in Europe would have been in vein and for naught, setting Kosovo back to the very beginning of its development phase.
It is in this context that the World Bank has decided to support Kosovo
- in assessing and addressing most urgent environmental legacies;
- in exploiting available opportunities for energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources of energy;
- in strengthening and reinforcing the supportive infrastructure and institutional context,
- in preparing reforms, policy measures, and investments in strict observance of EU standards; and
- in ensuring the realization of its vision of being able to provide secure, affordable, and clean energy.
In that, the World Bank has worked closely not only with Government, state institutions, and KEK but also with all development partners and interested parties, including civil society.
KOSID and its foreign partners have followed closely the developments in Kosovo, and the interventions implemented and prepared by the World Bank in support to the country’s energy strategy. You are all well aware of the ongoing preparation of the US$32½-million Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Project for presentation to our Board of Directors before end-June. And you are certainly aware of the launch of the work on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment that will flow into the ultimate decision-making process on the proposed PRG, which will be open to consultation at several key junctures prior to finalization.
The strategic anchors of the World Bank’s involvement in Kosovo’s energy sector have not changed. We are convinced that security of energy is a key pillar in any successful development strategy. To achieve that, Kosovo needs to keep its focus on all aspects concomitantly:
- fostering modern, state-of-the-art energy generation capacities in fossil and renewable energy, to be able to replace outdated generation capacities,
- advancing the regional integration of its energy market,
- taking full advantage of the energy efficiency potentials in the public and private sectors,
- reducing commercial and technical distribution losses, and
- ensuring the financial viability and sustainability of the entire sector.
We are also convinced that, as country that has signed the Energy Community Treaty and aims at joining the EU, the relevant Directives and accompanying reference documents define the appropriate environmental and technological standards for a balanced energy strategy. And we are equally convinced that Kosovo, with considerably more binding development constraints, should not be held to higher standards than much richer countries in the EU. The World Bank has its own internal policies—currently contained in the Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change—that requires all technical assessments to be vetted by an independent panel of external experts, before any related project proposal can be presented to the Board.
With that, I have no doubt that Kosovo will be setting standards in the region, and among countries of similar income levels, of how to implement energy policies effectively, responsibly, and to the benefit of citizens and firms operating (or considering to operate) in the country.