Renewable energy can help achieving a variety of sustainable development objectives and various synergies could facilitate their deployment. Due to this reason, but also because of potential trade-offs related to the environment and human health both at country and transboundary level, accounting for different interests and issues early in planning and identifying strategic directions is crucial.
On 4 and 5 December 2018 in Sarajevo, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and UNECE (Sustainable Energy and Environment Divisions) jointly organised a multi-stakeholder dialogue entitled “Hard Talk: New Possibilities for Developing Renewable Energy Sustainably in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. The event - supported by the Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection of Italy - aimed to uncover the most pressing barriers to the deployment of renewables in the country and featured a session on intersectoral synergies and trade-offs. The Renewable Energy Hard Talks in UNECE countries in general explore new possibilities for developing sustainable energy and promoting renewable energy investments, and lead to development of related recommendations. The intersectoral or ‘nexus” perspective in the Hard Talks in the Drina riparian countries is a feature developed with the Water Convention and the Hard Talks are part of the work of the Group of Experts on Renewable Energy (GERE).
Over 50 participants took part in the event, including policy and decision-makers, project developers, investors, technology providers and NGOs as well as international donors and financial institutions. Notably, representatives from areas of water management and environment protection were also among the participants.
Ensuring the long-term sustainability was identified as a key aspect requiring attention and measures. Spatial planning, environmental permitting, public participation, and guidelines for developers (of hydropower in particular) emerged as crucial considerations for sustainable renewable energy development. The participants recognized the value of improving the quality of environmental impact assessments required for projects and strategic assessment of policies early on, in line with the principles of the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment, improving permitting and strengthening the necessary capacities within authorities, and achieving wider acceptance of renewables by developing further public participation, in line with the Aarhus Convention.
An important aspect of the discussion was the need to view the sustainable deployment of renewable energy from an inter-sectoral point of view that takes into account its impact on the water, agriculture, forestry and environmental sectors. By planning future renewables deployment holistically and across borders, through this ‘nexus’ approach, many positive synergies and benefits can be realised. Examples of such concrete opportunities for synergies are e.g. those between hydropower operation and flood protection, and using renewable energy to power rural development and sustainable tourism, illustrated in a nexus assessment of the Drina River Basin (carried out under the Water Convention in 2016-2017).
As a side event to the Hard Talks, the UNECE held a consultation on a follow up project to the nexus assessment of the Drina River Basin, which will feature a modelling exercise to explore potential scenarios of renewable energy development in the three riparian countries, and the role that the basin’s resources play in achieving national goals. This activity is funded by the Austrian Development Agency in the framework of the project “Promoting the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in Southeastern Europe, through the use of the Nexus approach” and implemented by UNECE in partnership with the Global Water Partnership Mediterranean. The project uses the Water Convention’s methodological experience on the transboundary nexus and the modelling expertise of the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm.