Wednesday, 13 September 2023 07:28

Bojan Kumer: We need to make the transition to sustainable and renewable energy sources

Caspian Energy (CE): What can you say about the current energy security level of Slovenia? 

Bojan Kumer, Minister of the Environment, Climate and Energy of the Republic of Slovenia:  In Slovenia, we have well-developed and reliable networks and cross-border interconnections and an adequate diversification of sources and supply routes. The supply of energy, energy products and services cannot be provided solely within Slovenia, so we also depend on the supply, demand and development of markets in the wider region. Slovenia is dependent on imports for almost 50% of its energy. We import all fossil fuels for transport, which has a definite impact on their reliability. We need to make the transition to sustainable and renewable energy sources before the world’s fossil fuel reserves are exhausted. Therefore, all decisions in the Slovenian energy sector are aimed at ensuring an energy supply from sustainable and renewable sources. Our goal is to reduce import dependency to the minimum acceptable level.

We recognise in our energy strategy documents the need to strengthen energy independence through renewable energy sources. We are in the process of setting new binding national climate and energy targets for 2030, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewable energy in total energy consumption.

At the moment, the answers to Slovenia’s energy problems also depend on the Russo-Ukrainian war and its effects, which have led to soaring prices of energy. We had to regulate the prices of fuel, electricity and gas. For the winter of 2024, supply issues and the growing difficulties with the provision of gas from sources other than Russia may require a rethinking of the situation and could demand cuts in energy usage by both citizens and industry.

 

CE: What is the share of local electricity production in meeting domestic energy demand? 

Bojan Kumer:  For many years, electricity production in Slovenia was roughly equal to consumption. It should be borne in mind that the nuclear power plant in Krško is half-owned by Croatia and half of the energy from this plant is exported to Croatia. For this reason, Slovenia is often portrayed as import-dependent in the area of electricity, and if we deduct half of the output of the nuclear power plant, this amounts to around 18% of Slovenia’s consumption on an annual basis.

However, this picture may deteriorate in the coming years. We foresee a gradual increase in electricity consumption, while electricity production from lignite will decrease. We hope that by building new capacities to generate electricity from renewable sources (hydro, solar, wind) we will be able to produce enough to avoid annual import dependency.

In any case, Slovenia imports and exports energy on an hourly basis all the time. Even on an annual basis, imports and exports account for more than 50% of domestic consumption. This is partly due to the large extent of transit through Slovenia, and partly due to occasional exports and occasional imports. Exports are typically in the morning and evening peak periods and imports at night and during the day. On the other hand, imports are made throughout the month during overhauls of large units (the nuclear power plant). Slovenia’s electricity system is so well interconnected with neighbouring systems that it is possible to import all of Slovenia’s consumption.

 

CE: Which countries does Slovenia find the most important for cooperation in the field of energy?

Bojan Kumer: In terms of the energy supply, the most important countries for Slovenia’s are its neighbours: Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary. Of course, we are strongly influenced by everything that happens on the internal energy market.

 

CE: Does the country plan to increase natural gas purchases?

Bojan Kumer: Slovenia consumes approx. 10 TWh of gas per year. In 2024, consumption is expected to increase by approx. 15–20% due to the change of fuel used for district heating in Ljubljana, namely, gas will replace coal as an energy source.

In the future, the impact of efficient energy use measures on the consumption of energy sources, including natural gas, can be expected. In light of the increased introduction of renewable sources and intensive electrification, it is possible to expect increased operation of gas power plants as support to the introduction of renewable electricity sources.

Moreover, the capacities of gas power plants may increase in the next 10 to 15 years – and consequently the consumption of gas may also increase – due to the aforementioned support for renewable energy sources and the termination of the use of coal.

 

CE: To what extent did the country’s energy sector manage to overcome the consequences of the past year’s drought and water decline in the rivers, observed across almost the whole of Europe?

Bojan Kumer: Despite all the difficulties, the energy market has been functioning well, so there has been no need for reductions in the electricity and gas supply. Consumers have reduced their energy consumption due to high prices, despite price regulation for certain groups. Our main focus has been on the problem of suppliers leaving the market and we have taken action to ensure that no end-users are left without a supply of energy for this reason.

 

 CE: Are there plans to build a new nuclear power plant and upgrade the Krško NPP?

Bojan Kumer: One possible scenario for the implementation of the national energy policy is that the construction of a second unit at the nuclear power plant in Krško could realise the transition to a low-carbon society through a combination of other available low-carbon energy sources (nuclear, hydro and solar), thus providing a stable, cost-competitive and low-carbon electricity system of the future for Slovenia and the wider region.

While the preparatory procedures for the spatial planning of the project are already underway, many other steps and decisions are still needed before an investment decision can be taken.

 

CE: Europe aspires to become climate neutral by 2050. To what extent do you find it possible to achieve this goal by means of alternative energy resources, and handle it without nuclear energy?

Bojan Kumer: Currently, Slovenia is drawing up an update of the Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) in order to update its objectives in the area of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy sources. Slovenia aims to achieve climate neutrality in the same way as other EU countries. To this end, two scenarios for the abandonment of fossil resources have been drawn up as part of the expert basis for updating the NECPs: one scenario is based on the use of renewable energy sources and nuclear energy, while the other envisages a transition to only renewable energy sources. No decision has yet been taken concerning the choice of suitable scenario, as the government is committed to calling a referendum regarding the further use of nuclear energy in Slovenia. Additional studies and analyses need to be drawn up for the purpose of decision-making at the referendum.

 

CE:  Which types of renewable energy sources are broadly introduced in Slovenia, and what are their shares in energy generation?

Bojan Kumer: The Government of Slovenia has adopted the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan of the Republic of Slovenia (NEPN), a strategic document laying down the objectives, policies, and measures for Slovenia in accordance with the European Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action. In the sphere of decarbonisation and renewable energy sources, several renewable energy sources are being introduced in Slovenia, with the goal of reaching at least a 27% share of renewables by the year 2030. The actual share of renewables in final energy consumption in Slovenia in 2020 was 24.1%. The sector goal for that year was not reached and Slovenia had to compensate for that gap with the statistical transfer of 465 GWh, by an agreement with the Czech Republic, an EU Member State.

 

The shares of renewable energy sources in Slovenia are as follows (year 2020):

1. Heating and Cooling Sector: 32.1% (2020 goal: 30.8%);

2. Production of Electric Energy Sector: 35.1% (2020 goal: 39.3%);

3. Traffic Sector: 10.9% (2020 goal: 10.0%).

 

Electric energy production is the only sector where Slovenia has not been able to meet the goal as regards renewable energy production. There have been setbacks in implementing new hydro power plants, wind power plants, and biomass and biogas electrical production plants.

 Hydropower is Slovenia’s most significant renewable energy source for electricity generation. In November 2021, hydropower electricity generation represented 26.7% of all electricity generation in Slovenia.

 There are only two wind turbines in operation in Slovenia. There is some potential to build additional wind power plants in certain parts of Slovenia, but the potentially promising areas in most cases overlap with Natura 2000 protected areas. Slovenia is a country with great biodiversity and has 355 Natura 2000 sites, of which 324 are designated under the Habitats Directive and 31 under the Birds Directive. We have to continue to strive to install new capacity and find ways to also protect fragile ecosystems and natural habitats, and to increase the social acceptability of wind turbines.

Solar power electricity production in Slovenia has progressed in the past few years, although it is still relatively small. In 2021, the share of solar power electricity production in overall electricity production in Slovenia was 3.5%.

The current draft of the updated NECP includes these plans for RES. In the tables below, also the share of different RES is presented(Source: Consultation document: Scenarios for Updating the Comprehensive National Energy and Climate Plan, IJS-CEU, 2023):

Table 1: Estimated planned courses by individual technologies of renewable sources that Slovenia intends to use to realize the common and sectoral planned courses for renewable energy from 2020 to 2030, including the expected gross final energy use, by individual technology in GWh.

GWh

2022

2030

Total gross final RES of ED

14,521

18,517

Solar energy

1,128

3,950

Wind energy

14

357

Hydro energy

4,454

4,716

Biogas

145

181

Bioliquids

1,426

1,881

Wood biomass

5,789

4,975

Ambient energy

987

1.407

Other OVE heat

578

1.050

 

 

Table 2: Estimated planned courses by technologies of renewable sources that Slovenia intends to use to realize the common and sectoral planned courses for renewable energy from 2020 to 2030 in the electricity sector

GWh

2022

2030

Gross final use of RES electricity

5,754

9,391

Solar energy (SFE)

980

3.756

Wind energy

14

357

Hydro energy

4,454

4,716

Biogas

145

173

Wood biomass (SPTE in Co incineration)

162

301

Geothermal energy

0

88

  

CE: How do you assess the progress of the country’s green transition?

Bojan Kumer: Even though both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 increased compared to 2020, Slovenia fulfilled its goals in the fields of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency. Energy use and greenhouse emissions have increased, compared to 2020, due to the measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The share of renewable energy sources in 2021 in Slovenia without the statistical transfer was 24.6%. The goal of 25% for that year was not achieved again. In accordance with the EU partner states’ commitments, the goals for increasing the share of renewable energy by 2030 will further increase. To meet the goals, we will have to eliminate obstacles, especially regarding the spatial positioning of new plants. Currently, the process of upgrading the support schemes for RES and removing obstacles for RES communities is also taking place.

In the field of sustainable mobility, the implementation of measures has strengthened; nevertheless, a more ambitious approach to achieving the goals and performing actions faster will have to be carried out. The implementation of such actions will require strong political support at both local and national levels.

We are actively working on removing the obstacles regarding the RES and transport sectors and taking steps forward with the Act on the Deployment of Installations for Electricity Generation from Renewable Energy Sources and the Act on Infrastructure for Alternative Fuels and Encouragement of the Transition to Alternative Fuels in Transport, both of which are currently in the process of adoption.

Final energy use in buildings increased in 2021; however, greenhouse gas emissions decreased due to greater use of RES. The goals set by 2030 in the field of the energy renovation of buildings from the long-term energy renovation strategy for 2050 (DSEPS 2050) are very ambitious and will be difficult to achieve with the current dynamics of building renovation. Slovenia is not yet reaching the objective of the energy renovation of 3% of the total floor area of buildings annually regarding buildings owned and used by the central government. 

 

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