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Home » Policy » The Future of Coal Passes Through Kosovo: op-ed from UC Berkeley’s Noah Kittner and Daniel Kammen

The Future of Coal Passes Through Kosovo: op-ed from UC Berkeley’s Noah Kittner and Daniel Kammen

This op-ed was originally published on the National Geographic energy blog In 2013, the World Bank pledged to stop loan­ing money for new coal energy projects[1], unless no finan­cially fea­si­ble alter­na­tives exist. Pres­i­dent Obama has said the same for the United States, “Today, I’m call­ing for an end of pub­lic financ­ing for new coal plants overseas—unless they deploy car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies, or there’s no other viable way for the poor­est coun­tries to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity (Pres­i­dent Obama, June 25, 2013)[2],[3].”In Kosovo a pro­posed coal-​​fired power plant has been under dis­cus­sion for over a decade. The prime fun­ders, iron­i­cally, are the World Bank and the U. S. government.

The land­scape of energy no longer favors coal. Renew­able energy and energy effi­ciency tech­nolo­gies costs con­tinue to plum­met. The World Bank and the U. S. government’s deci­sion to fund this project or not will set a crit­i­cal prece­dent for the future of coal financ­ing, mak­ing Kosovo the global gate­keeper for new coal projects.

In fact, coal has become an increas­ingly risky invest­ment in terms of energy, cli­mate, and health. In a recent analy­sis per­formed in con­junc­tion with col­leagues from the Balkans we have found[4] that the clean energy path is not only bet­ter for human and envi­ron­men­tal health — it is sim­ply less expensive.

The World Bank and the U.S gov­ern­ment now have the oppor­tu­nity and to set the inter­na­tional energy and cli­mate invest­ment agenda. Dis­trib­uted renew­able energy resources and energy effi­ciency are sim­ply faster to deploy to meet local needs than the ardu­ous process of build­ing out new cen­tral­ized coal facil­i­ties. Delay on adopt­ing a clean energy pol­icy for the region slows down not only the pro­vi­sion of crit­i­cally needed energy resources that can spur eco­nomic growth, but also the larger process of EU inte­gra­tion, which is a regional priority.

The range of options avail­able to the World Bank to replace an aging coal-​​fired power plant in Kosovo allows for tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion that avoids a one-​​size fits-​​all approach. Solar, wind, small-​​scale hydropower, bio­mass, and energy effi­ciency projects can all com­bine to form a reli­able elec­tric­ity mix and shift the con­ver­sa­tion away from single-​​technology solu­tions. Not every site may be appro­pri­ate for solar, wind, small-​​scale hydropower or bio­mass, but win­ners can emerge based on local con­di­tions. The highly adap­tive nature of renew­ables and energy effi­ciency invest­ments dis­trib­utes cap­i­tal invest­ment risk instead of chan­nel­ing all resources into coal projects.

New research on the haz­ards of par­tic­u­late mat­ter to human health and the envi­ron­ment from low-​​quality lig­nite coal inten­si­fies the con­cern for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of Koso­vars. Pol­lu­tion con­trol tech­nolo­gies that claim “clean” coal are expen­sive patch­work invest­ments that do not address prob­lems of coal min­ing, cli­mate change, or ash byprod­ucts. A price on car­bon ham­mers the nail in the cof­fin. World Bank Pres­i­dent Jim Kim has already pub­licly advo­cated for the inclu­sion of a $30/​ton car­bon shadow price on all pro­posed World Bank projects. There­fore, it only makes sense that coal, the high­est carbon-​​emitting elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion source per kilowatt-​​hour, becomes the most expen­sive option among the abun­dance of low-​​cost, low-​​carbon renew­ables includ­ing solar, wind, small-​​scale hydropower, bio­mass, and energy efficiency.

The World Bank and the US gov­ern­ment face an his­toric choice and a chance to tip the energy and cli­mate con­ver­sa­tion. They can side with the emerg­ing data and stud­ies of clean energy eco­nom­ics to chart a reli­able low-​​cost, and low-​​carbon path­way to renew­able energy and green jobs. Fail­ure to seize the moment would vio­late the pro­hi­bi­tions on coal projects that each insti­tu­tion has recently pledged. It is time to chart a sus­tain­able path for peo­ple in need of energy now.

[1] World Bank. 2013. Toward a sus­tain­able energy future for all: direc­tions for the World Bank Groups energy sec­tor. Wash­ing­ton DC ; World Bank. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/07/18016002/toward-sustainable-energy-future-all-directions-world-bank-group’s-energy-sector

[2] https://​www​.white​house​.gov/​t​h​e​-​p​r​e​s​s​-​o​f​f​i​c​e​/​2​0​1​3​/​0​6​/​2​5​/​r​e​m​a​r​k​s​-​p​r​e​s​i​d​e​n​t​-​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​-​c​h​a​nge

[3] US Trea­sury. 2013. Guid­ance for U.S. Posi­tions on MDBs Engag­ing with Devel­op­ing Coun­tries on Coal-​​Fired Power Gen­er­a­tion. http://​www​.trea​sury​.gov/​r​e​s​o​u​r​c​e​-​c​e​n​t​e​r​/​i​n​t​e​r​n​a​t​i​o​n​a​l​/​d​e​v​e​l​o​p​m​e​n​t​-​b​a​n​k​s​/​D​o​c​u​m​e​n​t​s​/​C​o​a​l​G​u​i​d​a​n​c​e​_​2​0​1​3​.​pdf

[4] http://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu/​p​r​o​j​e​c​t​/​s​u​s​t​a​i​n​a​b​l​e​-​e​n​e​r​g​y​-​f​o​r​-​k​o​s​o​v​o​-​a​n​d​-​s​o​u​t​h​e​a​s​t​-​e​u​r​o​pe/

Distributed energy and information (satellite TV) in Prizren, Kosovo


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