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A lot of market interest but no real action -- Western Balkans slow to start

Although hopes were high that Bosnia-Herzegovina would be the first country in the Western Balkans besides Croatia and Albania to join the wind power club, the market across the region again failed to take off. All countries are still struggling with renewables legislation or want to wait until official wind resource assessments have been conducted.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, conflict over who has the authority to grant planning permission in the Muslim-Croat Federation, one of the two regions that make up post war Bosnia-Herzegovina, has in fact left Austria's Windkraft Simonsfeld threatening to abandon its four-year-old plan for a EUR 65 million, 60 MW wind farm of 30 turbines on Podvelezje Plateau above Mostar. Last May the project was given the go ahead by the government of the Herzegovina-Neretva canton, only for the Mostar city authorities to bring it to a halt, arguing the project also needs its approval. "The administrative procedures are incredible," says the project's manager, Leo Schiefermüller. "These methods are in nobody's favour and certainly repel potential investors."

The situation is little better in the country's other region, the Serb Republic. The regional government here is yet to even take a decision on any of the eight requests made in 2006 to build a combined capacity of 100 MW. These were expected to be approved last year.

While Bosnia-Herzegovina's wind potential is estimated at some 1000 MW, energy minister for the Serb Republic, Ljubo Glamocic, says no decision on development concessions will be made until the resource is officially mapped. Two of Bosnia's three state-owned power utilities, Elektroprivreda BiH and Elektroprivreda Hrvatske Zajednice Herceg Bosne, have teamed up with local universities and the Impro Impex Center for Renewable Energy Sources to develop a comprehensive wind atlas as well as draft legislation for wind development.

Serbia

Things have not moved on in Serbia either, with projects still on hold as developers continue to wait for a pricing policy to be introduced. Austria's MTC and its local subsidiary Windrise Energy have been long hoping to install a 1 MW machine, the first of what it hopes will be 25 MW, at Dolovo.

Legislation is unlikely to arrive until Serbia's Energy Efficiency Agency has concluded a feasibility study, launched at the end of 2007, to evaluate the country's wind resource. Spanish overseas aid agency AECI has provided EUR 204,000 for the project, which will focus on three Serbian municipalities over the next 12 months. If everything goes according to plan, a 50 MW wind farm may be installed in Negotin, say the authorities.

On a more positive note, manufacturing of components for wind plants has begun in Serbia. Loher Elektro Subotica (LES), based in Subotica, manufactures 3000 generators a year for its German parent company, Flender Loher. Besides plans to double the production, LES director Istvan Sekula, says Loher is also developing a new wind turbine prototype that will be exclusively produced in Serbia.

Montenegro and Macedonia

Last year saw Montenegro publish a draft energy strategy to 2025 which promises wind a EUR 20 million slice of a EUR 97 million renewables budget. With no final laws or targets in place, however, there is no market. Help in terms of assessments and feasibility studies as well as interest in developing projects has come from Italian, Norwegian and German companies and governments. The country is estimated to have potential for 400 MW of wind.

The situation is similar in Macedonia. While it adopted an energy law back in 2006, it still has no specific renewable energy strategy or legislation. The country's new energy regulator, ERC, is working with the World Bank to devise a wind power pricing system, while Norwegian regional utility NTE, with experience as a wind plant owner, has worked with Macedonia's electricity generation company ELEM to conduct a wind power feasibility study. This has identified 20 sites for 33 MW. ELEM has opted to develop just four sites, Sasavarlija near Stip, Bogoslovec near Sveti Nikola, Ravnec near Bogdanci and Flora on the Kozuh.

Interest in Macedonian wind power from foreign developers is strong, with Austrian company Nova Energija announcing an EUR 80 million plan to install 30 wind turbines along the basin of the Vardar River near Gevgelija. Besides the Austrians, a Greek company had shown interest in building a wind farm at the same location, and Slovenian engineering company Comita is assessing the potential for 50-100 MW in Stip.

In Slovenia, Elektro Primorska has been forced to reapply for permission to build the country's first wind development on the Volovja Reber plateau near Ilirska Bistrica. It was granted permission for the project, but a legal appeal by protestors claiming corruption on the part of the environment and planning ministries in granting the permit succeeded.

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