Sustainable development must be underpinned by sustainable energy systems. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country that is still heavily dependent on coal and large hydropower at 67% and 31% of total electricity production, respectively. Significant initiatives are emerging to use the country’s vast non-hydro renewable energy potential estimated at 6.9 GW. However, the country’s progress in deploying renewable energy is hindered by a number of barriers, mainly policy and institutional barriers, which are further burdened by complex administrative procedures.
To address these issues, formulating recommendations based on diverse stakeholder insights, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina and UNECE jointly organised a multi-stakeholder dialogue entitled “Hard Talk: New Possibilities for Developing Renewable Energy Sustainably in Bosnia and Herzegovina” which was held in Sarajevo on 4 and 5 December 2018. The event was supported by the Ministry for Environment, Land and Sea Protection of Italy.
The event was a first-of-its-kind dialogue in the country, built around a practical ‘problem/solution’ discussion format to help achieve a common view on the actions needed to meet the country’s renewable energy targets. The multi-stakeholder exchange brought together over 50 representatives of policy and decision-makers, project developers, investors, technology providers and NGOs as well as international donors and financial institutions. In addition to the energy sector, also representatives from areas of water management and environment protection were among the participants. In her closing remarks, the host Ministry’s representative underlined the necessity of intersectoral and cross-border interstate cooperation for sustainable development.
The national renewable energy targets for 2020 and 2030 were discussed and the need to diversify the use of renewable energy was emphasised. Re-evaluating how biomass is used and introducing other technologies with lower environmental impact, such as wind and solar, were the focus of discussions. Additionally, economically viable support schemes for renewables were prioritised as a key next step for attracting needed investments. Ensuring the long-term sustainability was identified as another aspect requiring attention and measures. Achieving wider acceptance by developing further public participation, in line with the Aarhus Convention, contributes to that aim. As key to sustainability, the participants recognized the value of improving the quality of environmental studies required of projects and strategic assessment of policies early on, in line with the principles of the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment, as well as improving permitting and strengthening the necessary capacities within authorities.
An important aspect of the discussions was the need to view the sustainable deployment of renewable energy from an inter-sectoral point of view which takes into account its impact on the water, agriculture, forestry and environmental sectors. By planning future renewables deployment holistically, through this inter-sectoral or ‘nexus’ approach, many positive synergies and benefits can be realised. Such concrete opportunities for synergies ̶ including e.g. those between hydropower operation and flood protection, and using renewable energy to power rural development and sustainable tourism ̶ were illustrated by a nexus assessment of the Drina River Basin under the Water Convention, serviced by UNECE, which was published in 2017. The Italian-funded follow up work by UNECE includes sedimentation (water quality), flow regulation and monitoring. The Drina Basin was in focus in a side meeting to the Hard Talk where the energy stakeholders and others were consulted to shape a planned analysis to explore futures of renewable energy potential and investments. The analysis is to be carried out with funding of the Austrian Development Agency.