Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is a developing country in the Western Balkans. Since the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, it has faced substantial economic setbacks, with at least 16.9% of its population living in poverty as of 2015. However, renewable energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina could offer valuable opportunities for reducing poverty and boosting the economy.
A Step Toward Greener Energy
Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only country in the Western Balkans that is a net exporter of power. Electricity, which accounts for about 20% of the national GDP, is its most profitable export. In 2021, hydropower accounted for 37% of the electricity produced in the country, which has also begun to introduce solar and wind power plants in recent years.
According to the International Trade Administration, Bosnia and Herzegovina has the potential to further grow and benefit from renewable energy production. Given the country’s extensive river networks, sunny summers and windy mountain ranges, government officials are not ignoring that potential. In March 2022, BiH’s government announced plans to allocate 3.6 billion marka (about $2 billion) to enhance the country’s output of clean, renewable energy in the upcoming five years.
Significantly, such funding could have a substantial economic impact while helping to improve the well-being of the country’s most vulnerable. For instance, a 2015 UNICEF report highlighted that 73.8% of children in BiH between 5 and 15 years of age are deprived of material resources in at least one way, and 71.8% of children between 0 and 4 years of age are nutrition-deprived. A 2017 Sustainable Development Goals Fund Case Study showed that investment in increasing renewable energy production could help create jobs, lower household energy costs, improve health and sanitation and provide new opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation.
Wind Power Potential Blowing Investors Away
There are already three operational wind farms in BiH. As of 2019, one farm in Podveležje was producing 126 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electrical power yearly — enough to power about 40,000 homes. This sector expects to see further growth. For example, the German company wpd GmbH has invested $1.5 billion in a two-part project to build four wind farms in the towns of Glamoc, Bosansko Grahovo and Livno.
A Brighter Future in Solar Power
Additionally, the southern regions of BiH benefit from strong Mediterranean sunshine, which some overseas investors are eager to help harness. The Norwegian renewable energy company Greenstat, for one, is beginning construction of the first large-scale solar farm in the town of Grude. The plant will have the capacity to capture some 65 GWh of power per year.
At the local level, the government is also encouraging citizens to install solar panels through a state-funded initiative. The scheme is expected to alleviate some of the consequences of the current energy crisis in Europe, thus leaving people with more income and resources to enrich their quality of life.
Although hydropower already accounts for a substantial portion of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s renewable energy, the country’s rivers hold much untapped potential. Recent data indicate that BiH is only deriving about 41% of its domestic energy from hydropower. This indicates that this lucrative sector has room to expand while paving the way toward a greener and brighter future within the country itself.
Using Renewable Energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina for Good
Although Bosnia and Herzegovina’s developing renewable energy industry has met with some controversy, there is a clear route to increasing the country’s renewable energy production, instituting appropriate regulations and helping to alleviate poverty. Channeling and storing BiH’s abundant wind, solar and hydro-power resources would go a long way in heightening its energy export potential while ensuring positive impacts on both poverty reduction and the environment.
– Annabel Kartal-Allen