Coal-fired Power Plants of the Western Balkans Cost Bulgaria up to EUR 700m a Year

Society » ENVIRONMENT | February 19, 2019, Tuesday // 15:03| Views: | Comments: 0
Bulgaria: Coal-fired Power Plants of the Western Balkans Cost Bulgaria up to EUR 700m a Year

The European Union needs to take tougher measures for 16 power plants in 5 Western Balkan countries because the carbon dioxide and microparticles it throws are responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 people each year, reports Dnevnik. 


Only in 2016 obsolete TPPs in Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro caused the deaths of 253 people in Bulgaria. In the same year, the costs of the Bulgarians related to the effect of the harmful emissions of these plants were estimated within EUR 300-700 million (10-18% of health costs). This puts Bulgaria in sixth place in the top 10 of the most financially disadvantaged countries.


This is said in a report released Tuesday in Brussels on "Chronic Coal Pollution - EU action in the Western Balkans will improve health and economies across Europe". Behind it there are five nature conservation organizations: HEAL, CAN Europe, Sandbag, CEE Bankwatch Network and Europe Beyond Coal.

In it, the authors explain that the 16 plants, with a total capacity of 8 gigawatts, emitted as much sulfur dioxide as 206 coal-fired power plants in the EU with 30 times the capacity (156 gigawatts) in 2016. Only the Uhljevik plant in Bosnia and Herzegovina has ejected more sulfur dioxide than all coal-fired power stations in Germany.


The main reason is the use of cheap and affordable lignite in the area, but also the weak reaction of the EU.


The listed Balkan countries have been members since 2005 of the Energy Community Treaty, which aims to integrate the EU energy market with its neighbors. With it, they committed themselves to implementing pollution abatement and alignment with EU standards by 2018. But mandatory investment in new plants or technologies to reduce emissions is massively delayed for another time, the report said.

"Air pollution does not recognize borders and continues to be an invisible killer in Europe," warns Vlatka Matkovic Puljic, lead author of HEAL's report on energy and health issues.


Every year, the authors say, these Balkan plants cause another 8,000 cases of bronchitis in children (others over 2000 in adults) and chronic diseases costing health systems and economies between 6.1 and 11.5 billion euros. The bulk (EUR 3.1-5.8 billion) of these costs is attributable to EU countries.


Children in the EU suffering from asthma had a total of 36,400 days in the surveyed 2016 with seizures (of all registered 86,200 days) caused by Balkan coal plants.


In 2016, productivity in Europe has also suffered - more than 3,000 hospitals and more than 1.16 million working hours lost for business in the EU and the Western Balkans.

The authors explain that these are not really registered cases, but the results of a computer model used in the study of air pollution by the World Health Organization and the European Environment Agency, as well as publicly available data.


In 2015 a call for cleaner air measures was signed by several health institutes and doctors in Serbia, according to which every terrestrial hourly electricity produced from coal results in an average of 24.5 deaths due to dirty air, 225 cases of cardiovascular, respiratory and diseases of the blood supply to the brain as well as 13 288 cases of sick children in Europe. The model data was even more alarming in the case of lignite energy, which is the source of 70% of Serbian electricity.

The authors also warn that governments in the region are planning to add 2.7 gigawatts of power to coal-fired power plants over the next 10 years, mainly thanks to funding from Chinese banks. Most of these projects will not respond to EU rules on pollution control, the report added. Authorities respond to such claims that economies need energy security and that new capacities will emit less greenhouse gases.


Until now, the member states of the Energy Community Treaty have not been penalized with fines when they fail to honor their commitments.

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