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Slovenia’s State Secretary and ACER's Director On Energy Challenges

Slovenia’s State Secretary and ACER's Director On Energy Challenges

Date: March 10th 2021

Author: Alenka L. Klopčič, Tanja Srnovršnik

Category: En.vision

Topic: Electricity , Renewables , Energy policy , En.vision

What will Slovenia’s priorities be in the area of energy for its EU presidency and how does the European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) view these priorities? These were the two questions posed in the opening of the recent video debate conducted by Energetika.NET with the State Secretary at Slovenia’s Ministry of Infrastructure, Blaž Košorok, and the Director of ACER, Christian Zinglersen. The video debate took place on the rooftop of the aforementioned ministry on the very same day that ACER celebrated its 10th anniversary (3 March). This time the debate mainly focused on the pragmatic view on tackling the actual realistic energy challenges – from Slovenia to the EU and Texas…

mar 1 previewWhen answering the first question regarding Slovenia’s priorities in the area of energy for its EU presidency and ACER’s expectations in this regard, both speakers stressed the meaning of the Fit for 55 package under the European Green Deal and tackled e-mobility, since this has a close link to the electricity system.

“There is also the issue of decarbonising gas systems,” added Zinglersen, adding that this might not yet be a topic for the Slovenian presidency but it still remains an important challenge. However, it will be a focus of Slovenia’s presidency, added Košorok.

In Energetika.NET’s autumn interview with Zinglersen he mentioned some of the key tasks ahead for ACER, among them – in addition to a more decarbonised gas system – he mentioned electricity market integration, which needs further action, as well as some new tasks, including a monitoring role, for ACER (MORE).

Decision on the continuation of nuclear very close


Meanwhile, when speaking about Slovenia’s national energy plans in our autumn interview (MORE), Košorok updated Energetika.NET’s readers and viewers about Slovenia’s priority energy projects, listing, among others, the hydropower plants (HPP) on the lower Sava river, the second unit of the Krško nuclear power plant (NPP), and the power interconnection between Slovenia and Hungary. In our latest video interview, we asked Košorok to provide us with a further update on these projects, especially the Krško NPP, as well as the transition from coal.

The State Secretary first talked about the Mokrice HPP – a project that is still pending and awaiting a court decision – for which a decision is expected by the court, whereas the Krško NPP is somewhat closer to obtaining a final decision on an energy permit for the second nuclear reactor. Discussing this matter, Košorok said that he believes that the Slovenian energy sector expects that a decision will be made that will provide an answer to the question of when the phasing out of coal will really happen – will that be in 2033, 2038 or 2042? However, according to Košorok, if the carbon prices alone are taken into account, then the phase out would happen even sooner.

How will Slovenia boost its renewable capacities?


fotovoltaika, vetrniceSlovenia’s national energy and climate plan (NECP) foresees a large boost in electricity production from solar. However, according to a calculation by HSE, if Slovenia was to replace the electricity produced at unit 6 of the Šoštanj thermal power plant (TPP), it would have to invest about EUR 1.5 billion in setting up 2,885 MW of PV capacity, as well as EUR 3.6-5 billion in storage to ensure that this energy is evenly distributed. However, this is based on the picture if Slovenia was to mainly count on solar. What would be the best mix for Slovenia in terms of production, cost and other perspectives and/or should the country base its future on solar and storage? How will Slovenia accelerate the build out of renewables power production capacities?

To date, 354 renewable projects have been selected in seven public tenders that have been completed by the Energy Agency, however, only 21% of production facilities have entered into the support scheme. According to market players, siting and slow issuing of permits present a barrier.

The managers of the energy companies also have a responsibility for this, said Košorok, adding that renewables could be rapidly boosted by removing the administrative obstacles for new wind and solar installations, since Slovenia is falling behind. “The Commission will not accept Slovenia’s goals not being reached,” he warned.

To this end, Košorok stressed the importance of renewables in the transportation sector, where hydrogen will also play an important role, he said.

Auctions, price volatility and well-functioning markets, among others…


enTrading 016 web ilustracija 04ACER and the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER) have started work on recommendations for which direction hydrogen legislation should go. They wrote, among others, that network operators – TSOs and DSOs – may only invest in power-to-gas installations if doing so is necessary to guarantee secure, reliable and efficient network operations and if no other market party is willing to carry out the investment. However, the Slovenian gas TSO, Plinovodi, said that ACER and CEER’s recommendations on how to regulate power-to-gas installations lack reference to ACER and CEER’s position “regarding P2G demonstration projects, which are generally implemented in all more advanced EU member states and are an important precursor for possible larger and industrial systems.” What is the regulators’ position with regards to P2G demonstration projects and operators’ involvement in them?

When answering this question, Zinglersen said, among others, that network owners definitely have a role in carrying out some demonstration projects. New projects have to start somewhere and in a demonstration phase there is less of a risk of network ownership becoming an impediment to the market entry of others.

Energetika.NET also asked ACER’s director about examples of good practice in a particular country or region that is moving particularly effectively and wisely from a socio-economical perspective towards carbon neutrality and whether he has any suggestions for the best possible renewable support schemes from an EU perspective. Zinglersen responded that the answer lies more generally, among others, in a selected focus and a broader holistic planning approach, while for renewable support schemes, auctions are a tried and tested approach, perhaps coupled with mechanisms to mitigate price volatility if that is seen as high-risk by market participants negatively influencing bidding. That said, well-functioning liquid markets with an appropriate market design remain key to the cost-efficient roll-out of renewables.

“Slovenia is not Texas, and the EU is not Texas”


enTrading 016 web ilustracija 17Watch the video debate, in which Zinglersen and Košorok also commented on the consequences of the recent deep freeze across the southern U.S., which caused power outages for millions in Texas, the country’s second most populous state, and if the EU already has the right rules in place to prevent such a problem – bearing in mind the system split that occurred in Europe on 8 January.

“We would probably be better equipped in Europe in that particular situation to tackle these things; what is required going forward is continued vigilance,” said Zinglersen, adding that being isolated (as is the case for Texas’ energy system) can also have very significant negative consequences due to a lack of interconnections, whereas Europe has numerous interconnections. Interdependence, with its benefits, needs continued nurturing, he said, referring to the EU energy system.

“Slovenia is not Texas, and the EU is not Texas. We are very well interconnected, but we must recognise that our networks are old, albeit robust, which the event on 8 January confirmed,” added Košorok.

There are challenges and they will require changes in our own heads. In addition, we need to ask ourselves how to do it (make the changes), concluded the state secretary, while Zinglersen concluded by saying that he is looking forward to continued market innovation, since “we for sure haven’t yet seen all the solutions.”

The whole video debate is available HERE.




This article is available also in Slovene.



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