In 2019, 18 coal-fired power plants in the Western Balkans emitted twice as much sulphur dioxide (SO2) than was released by 221 coal power plants in 28 EU member states, states a report from research organisation the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
The largest polluter was Ugljevik, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, producing 50 tonnes of SO2 per gigawatt-hour (GWh) and 88,300 tonnes of SO2 annually. The EU’s most polluting coal plant, Bełchatów in Poland, produced 1.1 tonnes of SO2 per GWh, in comparison.
Of the 18 plants, 17 have had the legal obligation to implement the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (legislation to limit flue gas emissions) since 2018. This should have resulted in an immediate drop in SO2, the report says. The Western Balkan states must comply with such regulations if they are to gain accession to the EU.
However, total SO2 emissions from the Western Balkan coal plants have remained almost the same between 2015 and 2019, at around 700,000 tonnes a year. Conversely, annual SO2 emissions in the EU declined from 960,000 tonnes in 2015 to 360,000 in 2019.
The report calls for Western Balkan governments to take legal action against plant operators that fail to reduce pollution levels and draw up realistic coal phase-out plans to ensure plants are closed as soon as possible.