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Cheap electricity and jobs keep Serbia tied to coal

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She said Serbia had also committed to reducing coal use by up to a quarter by 2030.

“It could mean 5 percent. It could mean 20 percent. We don’t know,” said the lawyer, whose institute last year managed to have a Belgrade court recognize the harmful role thermal power plants on health.

The court also ordered EPS, the state-owned electricity company, to reduce its sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions due to the threat they pose to health and the environment.

POLLUTION

In 2022, SO2 emissions from coal were five to six times higher than the permitted limit for all thermal power plants in the country, according to the source.

“We have nothing against switching to green energy, which is better for health and the environment, and which would also provide better working conditions for miners,” said Vladimir Radosavljevic, vice-president of the United Trade Unions of Serbia -Sloga, who is responsible for the industrial sector.

But “the energy sector employs a large number of people here, especially in the large mines, and abandoning coal mining would lead to many layoffs,” he said.

Serbian President Vucic said in 2021 that the country “will not run away” from its thermal capacities and promised miners they would have jobs for at least the next three decades.

For the moment, no layoffs are in sight and Serbia is expected to open a new unit of its Kostolac coal-fired power plant in the coming months, thanks to Chinese financing, as well as an extension of the Kostolac coal mine. Drmno.

It is not known when the new block – named “B3” – will open.

But Vojvodic said his organization learned testing had been underway since January.

“We became aware of this a few days ago. Residents called us to say they were extremely concerned because they were seeing black smoke coming from the chimney. We requested documentation and found out that testing were in progress.”

B3 is equipped with a desulfurization unit – but “the figures speak for themselves: even with that, emissions are higher” than Serbia’s commitments, she says.

In Kolubara, there is talk of a possible relocation of the mine and the infrastructure surrounding it.

“To be honest, we don’t know if Serbia plans to further expand its mines,” Vojvodic said.

“The Ministry of Construction is considering new facilities, the Ministry of Mines and Energy says it’s not possible and the Ministry of Environment has nothing to say. So we don’t know what the projects.”

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