The Untapped Potential of Biomass

Biogas CHP plant in Alibunar

The benefits of renewable energy are numerous and far-reaching, from improved public health and a preserved environment to strengthened national economies. The positive impacts of clean energy include decreased pollution and global warming emissions, as well as tangible economic effects – through the creation of local jobs, reduced dependence on imports of foreign fossil fuel supplies and greater energy security.

Recognising these benefits and setting targets at the level of the EU Energy Community, Serbia committed to increasing the share of renewable energy in its overall energy consumption to 27 per cent by 2020, compared to 21.2% in 2009. The National Action Plan for Renewable Energy Sources envisages setting up 30 megawatts (MW) of biogas plants by the target year. Agricultural biomass constitutes 61% of the total potential of renewable energy sources in Serbia but is not commonly used for energy generation. An added value of energy generation from this source is the reduction of agricultural production waste, which is a significant source of water and soil pollution in Serbia.

In partnership with the Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy, and with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP Serbia is implementing the five-year project “Reducing Barriers to Accelerate the Development of Biomass Markets”. Six biogas combined heat and power plants (CHP) with a total capacity of 6.35MWe have been constructed in Aleksinac, Alibunar, Bač and Zrenjanin. The $1.6 million of investment grants provided by the project have secured a further $21million of private investments. Aside from the financial value, the host communities gained 100 new jobs, levels of pollution and waste were reduced, and the local power distribution network was improved. Additionally, the UNDP team prepared a methodology for monitoring raw material consumption and energy production in this type of facility.

In order to support biomass markets in Serbia, UNDP experts developed a model of contracts for long-term biomass supply and prepared technical specifications of wood and agricultural biomass. An online biomass e-trading platform has also been set up and is operational, managed by the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia. In parallel, a model report has been developed for producers of electrical energy from biomass, to complement the Government Decree on Privileged Power Producers.

The use of biomass is a technically feasible and cost-effective solution for a great part of Serbia’s needs for renewable energy