An insight into Serbian bioenergy – Vojislav Milijic

Since 2015, AEBIOM is involved in an innovative EU project called “Sustainable Regional Supply Chains for Woody Bioenergy” (BioRES). This project aims at developing Biomass Logistics and Trade Centres (BLTCs) in three countries, Serbia, Bulgaria and Croatia based on the best case practices already existing in Austria, Germany and Finland. This offers a great opportunity to learn more about the specificity of these developing bioenergy markets. AEBIOM had the opportunity to speak with Vojislac Milijic, Vice-President of SERBIO regarding the current status of the bioenergy sector in Serbia:

Vojislav Milijic

  • What is the situation of bioenergy in Serbia? What are the future trends?

The bioenergy situation in Serbia is developing, and I say this from personal experience, having worked within the Serbian and regional bioenergy market from its beginnings in 2009. Plenty of activities were done in terms of information, analysis of potential and concrete feasibility of project implementation. There are several projects supporting bioenergy development (GIZ DKTI, UNDP, etc..) as well as financing opportunities for project development (KfW, EBRD, IFC). We also expect several concrete district heating system fuel switch projects to be implemented. General interest of industry making the switch to biomass is rising, and we have some examples of agricultural companies which have already implemented biomass or biogas solutions. Also, solid biofuels such as pellets and briquettes are becoming widely used by the local population. It is still the case that the majority of the local population uses firewood, but in a very inefficient manner. In terms of electricity production there are several biomass based CHP projects in development.

As the Serbian National Biomass Association it is one of our objectives to participate in the development of the bioenergy market. We also had prior experience in BLTC development in one small city before the BioRES project. The BLTC concept can be replicable since it provides trading with standardised wood fuels, but also reduces the level of grey and informal economy and unregistered harvesting. This is why this concept got support both from private investors and state and local administrations. On the other hand, BLTCs provide guaranteed woody biomass supply to consumers, which is very important in District Heating system supply. In terms of quality assurance, BLTCs are a potentially important factor since there is still a low level awareness of the importance of quality among local consumers of bioenergy products, such as pellet or firewood.

        • Which kind of industries could benefit the most from a stronger bioenergy sector in Serbia?

Even with the reduced fossil fuel prices we have seen in the past 2 years, biomass based fuels are still more competitive than heavy oil and natural gas. Coal is more competitive in terms of price, but the environmental costs of its utilisation will definitely be a subject of discussion for the state administration during EU accession negotiations. The trend will likely be towards emissions reduction. In this sense, biomass is becoming increasingly welcome in the processing sector, district heating systems and power production. Biomass is already considered by most important agricultural companies as a fuel in their processing activities. Biogas is considered and supported, not just as a renewable energy source, but as a solution to farm waste and reducing environmental side-effects. Finally, individual consumers want standardised fuels and comfort, which explains the growth of pellet consumption.

        • What are the next steps for SERBIO with regards to the creation of BLTCs?

Apart from the continuing support we plan to provide to wood based BLTCs, we also plan to start developing logistics centers for agricultural biomass. Agro-biomass is a very important resource in the northern part of Serbia and there is great potential for the utilization of this. However, the main barrier for agro biomass utilisation is the space required for biomass storage throughout the whole year. Some activities have already been done to address this and we definitely plan to continue.

For more information, visit SERBIO’s website.

Interview conducted by Glen Wilson & Jean-Baptiste boucher