A new briefing by Biofuelwatch, launched today, has revealed that the planned use of biomass energy crops in a new unit at the Tuzla coal power plant in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an unfeasible and environmentally risky endeavour.
21st December 2023 –
The briefing is available in English (https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2023/src-west-balkan-briefing) and in Western Balkan languages (https://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2023/src-izvjestaj-za-zapadni-balkan/).
Despite a September 2022 agreement by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and energy utility Elektroprivreda BiH to pursue the construction of a new biomass unit at the Tuzla power plant , the proposal to burn willow biomass is shrouded in uncertainty.
Notably, the EBRD feasibility study for the project has not been completed even a year after its initiation, and according to the draft National Energy and Climate Plan for BiH , the proposed biomass capacity has been halved from 100 MW to 50 MW.
As per EPBiH’s official statements , in an effort to overcome limitations on available biomass, the Tuzla power plant plans to rely heavily on fast-growing willow plantations primarily grown on former open-cast coal mines, supplemented by additional Short Rotation Coppicing (SRC) willow from farmers when necessary.
However, Biofuelwatch’s analysis highlights that SRC willow plantations have not been successful in Europe despite decades of effort. Economic challenges that farmers face and their inability to recoup investments, even with subsidies, raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of large-scale SRC plantations.
Alarmingly, the proposed 50 MWe biomass unit in Tuzla would require an estimated 29,000 hectares of land, more than double the size of Sarajevo, based on the average yield of SRC willow on farmland stated by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Additionally, SRC willow’s high water requirements make it far from drought-resistant. Failed SRC willow trials in Šićki Brod  further underline the challenges associated with implementing such projects.
Denis Zisko, Aarhus Centre BiH: ‘We lost 15 years listening to fairy tales about new coal power plants. Now the BiH authorities and Elektroprivreda BiH have created a new fairytale about biomass that could cost us another 15 years. It is time for our authorities to get their act together, admit that there is no future in burning stuff to produce energy, and finally start working on sustainable renewable solutions based on solar, wind, and geothermal energy combined with energy efficiency measures and energy storage solutions.’
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch: ‘Our research clearly shows that short-rotation coppicing, regardless of whether it is done on former coal mine surface or on farmland, cannot realistically meet more than a tiny fraction of the biomass demand of one or more, let alone the biomass plants proposed by EPBiH. Inevitably, most of the biomass will have to come from forests, which is deeply alarming in a region where illegal logging is widespread and forest degradation rampant.’
Natasa Kovacevic, CEE Bankwatch Network: ‘Even without considering the environmental impact of burning energy crops, the lack of credible success stories and the challenges of growing willow in short rotations on former coal mine sites raises serious doubts about the feasibility of this transition. We urge the EBRD and the EPBiH to halt the wasteful expenditure of time and money on this absurd project of replacing the Tuzla 3 unit with a biomass plant.’
The groups call for the funds to be redirected towards using geothermal energy for district heating needs and developing thermal energy storage in salt mines and advise authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to capitalize on the increasing opportunities for assistance in developing district heating modernization projects.
For instance, the EIB’s JASPERS programme has pledged to triple its technical assistance for investment preparation and project implementation in the next six years, while grants and loans available through the Western Balkans Growth Plan can be utilized to invest in clean heating systems .
Notes for editors:
 EBRD to back Bosnia’s Tuzla TPP project with 50 mln euro loan: https://seenews.com/news/ebrd-to-back-bosnias-tuzla-tpp-project-with-50-mln-euro-loan-797457
 BiH to convert Tuzla coal unit to biomass (50 MW) by 2030 https://www.energetika.net/eu/novice/ecology/bih-to-convert-tuzla-coal-unit-to-biomass-50-mw-by-2030
 Video: https://youtu.be/90lR2mDPayY
 EIB and European Commission to triple advisory support for the Western Balkans under the JASPERS programme https://www.eib.org/en/press/all/2023-412-eib-and-european-commission-to-triple-advisory-support-for-the-western-balkans-under-the-jaspers-programme
 2023 Regulation proposal Reform and Growth Facility Western Balkans https://neighbourhood-enlargement.ec.europa.eu/2023-regulation-proposal-reform-and-growth-facility-western-balkans_en