The BiH Energy Summit: A Catalyst for Progress, Results, and Self-Reliance

Thursday, December 26, 2019
U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson addressing the 5th BiH Energy Summit in Neum (April 2019).
USAID/BiH

U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson addressing the 5th BiH Energy Summit in Neum (April 2019).
U.S. Ambassador Eric Nelson addressing the 5th BiH Energy Summit in Neum (April 2019).

 

Since 2014, the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Energy Summit in Neum has been the leading annual event for the energy sectors in BiH and the greater Balkan region. More than just a venue for presentations and discussions, the summit has been the catalyst for moving energy reform from initial discussion stages to concrete and tangible progress and results. Year after year, attendees leave encouraged about the future of the BiH energy sector and with the motivation and the momentum needed to reach a consensus on complex political and technical issues.

Selection of USAID Energy Investment project’s major achievements*

  • Adoption of:
    • BiH Energy Framework Strategy
    • National Emissions Reduction Plan
    • National Energy Efficiency Plan
    • Federation Energy Efficiency Law
    • Summit Recommendations for Energy Sector Reform
  • An open and functional electricity market
  • Comparison Pricing Tool for Electricity Consumers
  • Investor Guidelines for the Energy Sector

*See related stories, listed and linked at the end of this article.

In the years since it was established by USAID, the summit has led to notable strides in BiH’s energy sector development and security (see text box) – and progress on these reforms was no small feat. Although the changes are imperative for BiH’s integration into the EU and attracting foreign investors, including U.S. firms, many of these reforms had languished in various states of disagreement due to political or other obstacles—often for years and years.

More and more energy sector stakeholders attend the summit each year. More than 600 people came to the 5th BiH Energy Summit in 2019, which was co-organized and hosted by USAID’s Energy Investment Activity, the German Development Agency, and the UK Embassy. Again, it was ‘the’ meeting place for decisionmakers from all levels of government in BiH and the region, technical experts, academia, and media.

Going a step above and beyond previous years, in 2019 USAID and the UK Embassy used the summit moment and momentum to host a special high-level meeting for the most relevant stakeholders: the Ambassadors from the United States, the UK, Germany, and the EU, and the Energy Community Secretariat, the BiH Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, and Prime Ministers and other officials from both BiH entities (the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska). 

The meeting provided a forum in which the two entities could agree on energy sector reforms and encourage local decision-makers to adopt a similar spirit of compromise. It worked. All parties present – including both entities – signed a joint declaration to accelerate energy sector reform in BiH, which was widely published in the media and on relevant government websites. Months later authorities in Republika Srpska (RS) authored a positive opinion paper on the Draft State Electricity and Gas Law. The RS also finalized a draft entity Electricity Law and sent it to the RS National Assembly for adoption.

“The positive opinion … is exclusively an outcome from the meeting held at the 5th Energy Summit in Neum,” said Milan Bastinac, the RS Assistant Minister for Energy and Industry. “We had been unable to reach an agreement, but after the summit and follow-up meetings, we decided to support the draft Law on Electricity and Gas. This is a huge step forward, he said.

Likewise, the Federation of BiH adopted its own Energy Sector Restructuring Program.

These reforms – all products of agreements reached at the BiH Energy Summits – will further integrate BiH into EU energy markets, attract investment, and improve energy security for BiH and the region.

BiH’s Energy Investment Potential: The energy sector is considered BiH’s greatest potential for long-term economic development. The country is a surplus electricity generator and is one of just two countries in Southeast Europe that exports electricity. BiH has significant reserves in fossil fuels and potential renewables, especially hydropower, of which only one-third of total potential is being used. The problem is BiH’s aging infrastructure. BiH has extraordinary potential for expanding capacity if it can attract investment.

USAID’s Energy Policy Activity, launched in September 2019, assists energy sector stakeholders to support the creation of an investor-friendly legislative and regulatory framework and continue the integration of BiH’s energy sector into regional and EU energy markets. The project facilitates future investments in the energy sector, raises the level of energy security, and maintains robustness of BiH's position as an electricity exporter.

Learn more about previous energy sector achievements in related stories:

In a Regional First, BiH Launches Electricity Price Comparison Tool for Households

Bosnian Companies Save Millions by Switching Electricity Suppliers

Guidelines Help Investors through Ultracomplex Process of Energy Investment

Energy Efficiency Law Spurs New Industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Positive Power” is a video summarizing all of USAID’s energy sector support and achievements in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the past 25 years.

Residents of BiH Can Now Compare Electricity Prices,” Sarajevo Times

Last updated: May 22, 2020

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