Lidija Carevic, Biogas Serbia Association – Biogas Has Multiple Benefits, Potentially a Source of Biomethane

Source: eKapija Friday, 22.09.2023. 12:16
(Photo: Udruzenje Biogas Srbija)
The concept of biogas was recognized in Serbia in 2009, when the Ministry of Mining and Energy proscribed the first incentives pertaining to investments in biogas. A set of measures was adopted at the time, regulating the biogas sector in Serbia, and the first three biogas facilities in Serbia started working in 2012 in line with that set of measures. That same year, the Biogas Serbia Association started working too. It was founded by the first three investors in biogas, as support to the sector and new investors, while also advocating the best possible working conditions in the sector. With the support of the organized association for biogas, that is when the biogas sector in Serbia started developing intensively, emphasizes Lidija Carevic, the manager of the Biogas Serbia Association and the coordinator of the project.

(Photo: Udruženje Biogas Srbija)
Do we have the accompanying regulations for this sector?

– Since 2009, when the first set of measures for the biogas sector was proscribed, we have had the accompanying regulations, which, depending on the incentives proscribed by the state, have also influenced the operations and the development of this sector. After the initial set of measures in 2009, in accordance with which the first three biogas facilities in our country were built and started working, another decree was adopted in 2013, regulating the biogas sector. This decree, that is, the proscribed incentive measures, were extremely unattractive for investors, so, between 2013 and 2016, no biogas facility started working in Serbia. The next decree from 2016 initiated a rapid and accelerated development of the biogas sector here. The extremely favorable conditions for investors supported the sector. The decree remained important until the adoption of the New Law on RES in March 2021, when auctions were introduced to the biogas sector. Although we took active part in the discussion as representatives of the sector, pointing out that it was too soon for auctions, as they had been transferred from some more developed markets in Europe, and that we should therefore wait with the auctions for some more time, in order for the sector to be additionally strengthened, our suggestions were not taken into consideration. It has turned out that our apprehensions were justified, as we have been waiting for two and a half years now for a final document that would make the legal regulations for biogas complete and thereby provide an opportunity for new investors to build facilities. At the moment, we are also advocating support to the introduction of biomethane in the sector, and although we don’t have the legal regulations that would allow biomethane to be injected in the national gas networks at the moment, I hope that this concept will be recognized by the creators of legal regulations in our country, because biomethane is a logical step in the development of the sector, just like in all of Europe. Biomethane is an excellent replacement for natural gas and, if we are talking about gas diversification, it is strategically important for energy security.

This leads us to the question of decarbonization, as well as the obligation of our country from the Paris Agreement and the Sofia Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. Biogas, that is biomethane (filtered biogas), solves energy and environmental issues.

(Photo: Udruženje Biogas Srbija)
How can agriculture go from being a polluter to giving potential in the domain of biogas?

– Agriculture and biogas are very connected. At the moment, in Serbia, the main raw material for the operations of biogas facilities is precisely the waste from agricultural production. A biogas facility can take care of all types of agricultural waste, slaughterhouse waste, as well as all the remains of organic origin. It is extremely important for all waste from agriculture to be taken care of in an environmentally friendly way. The use of agricultural waste in the production of biogas is a win-win situation, because all agricultural waste, instead of polluting the environment and creating decades-long problems, gains on economic value in the form of electrical energy, heating energy and high-quality fertilizer.

(Photo: Udruženje Biogas Srbija)
What do we get from biogas and how far has the technology advanced?

– We primarily get electrical and heating energy from biogas, and as a byproduct of this rounded out process, we get high-quality fertilizer which can be used in organic production as well. Potentially, we can get biomethane from biogas, that is, biogas filtered to the level of methane. The biogas technology is a mature technology. It has certainly progressed considerably since the very beginning of production, that is, from the experimental phase, and today it is a cost-effective and safe technology, which is constantly perfected, becoming more and more efficient, in the sense of a better utilization of biogas potential from the input materials. A biogas power plant is optimized for each individual case and that’s where its complexity lies.

(Photo: Udruženje Biogas Srbija)
You cooperate with the German Biogas Association. What are their experiences and does this help improve the biogas sector here?

– The cooperation with the German Biogas Association – Fachverband Biogas e.V. is extremely important for supporting and upgrading the biogas sector in Serbia. Germany is the absolute leader in biogas in Europe (and by some statistics, regarding the biogas technology, in the world as well). At the moment, in Germany, over 10,000 biogas facilities are active and Germany is ahead of us by some 20 years in this sector. When Serbia was estimated to be a promising market for the development of biogas, we got great support from Germany with the signing of a partnership agreement with the German Biogas Association – Fachverband Biogas e.V. The projects we carry out in Serbia in partnership with Fachverband Biogas e.V. are financed by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and coordinated by Sequa gGmbH from Bonn.

Since 2021, there has been a system of auctions. How does that function today?

In March 2021, within the new Law on RES, auctions for the biogas sector were proscribed. Until then that is, until March 2021, all investor could apply for the status of a preferred producer of electrical energy from RES in accordance with the previous decree from 2016, which was extremely favorable for investors and thereby supported the development of the sector in the best way. However, we still can’t say that the system of auctions has been implemented, because the final document, which would round out the legal regulations for biogas, has not been adopted so far. We hope that it will happen soon.

(Photo: Udruženje Biogas Srbija)
The plans for the development of the sector?

– The next step is to focus on the development and support to the development of biomethane. As we are always in contact with potential investors, we know that they are extremely interested in taking this step and investing in biomethane facilities, but state support is needed here. Serbia is a traditionally agricultural country and if we take into account all the waste that is generated from agriculture alone, we could easily have around 500 MW installed from biogas, which would cover 50% of the needs of Serbia for natural gas. In order to present biomethane as a potential replacement for natural gas and the next step in the development of the biogas sector, we have decided to organize a panel conference in partnership with the German Biogas Association – Fachverband Biogas e.V. and the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia with the key topic – biomethane, its importance and the possibility of its utilization. For that occasion, we will gather, in addition to our experts, eminent experts from Germany, so that they would convey experiences from the German sector to everybody present. The conference will be held on October 19, 2023, in the premises of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia in Belgrade, and a training session on biomethane, which will be run by an eminent expert for biomethane from the German Biogas Association, is planned for October 20, 2023. Our aim is to gather companies, individuals, agriculturists and potential investors, so that we would pave the way to the further development of the sector together, with the support of representatives of the competent institutions, as well as experts from Germany. The conclusions from the conference will serve as a roadmap for the further activities, which we will undertake on behalf of the sector.

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