STA, 22 May 2019 - Slovenia is among the European countries with the biggest diversity of flora and fauna. Some 24,000 species have been recorded, among them 800 animal and 66 plant species that are endemic, which means they are found only in Slovenia.
This data was released by the United Nations in a recent report that highlights the dangers of extinction faced by millions of plant and animal species, the Environmental Ministry pointed out on International Day for Biological Diversity.
According to a report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), in the past ten years biodiversity around the world has declined.
The report can be found here
The main reasons for this are changes in land and sea use, the direct exploitation of animals and plants (for example for food), climate change, pollution and invasive species.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation has launched its first-ever global report on the state of biodiversity, which underpins humanity's food systems. The report that points out how declining biodiversity poses a threat to food sources, human health and the environment.
The Slovenian Agriculture Ministry says that in areas of high natural value, agriculture can ensure the appropriate biodiversity levels are maintained, provided the right technological solutions are employed. Extensive agriculture helps preserve the diversity of species and habitats.
This year's International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated every year on 22 May, bears the slogan Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health. The theme focuses on biodiversity as the foundation of food and health and as a key catalyst to transforming food systems and improving human well-being.
The day marks the signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in 1992. In Slovenia, it has been celebrated since 1996 when Slovenia became one of the signataries of the convention.
STA, 19 May 2019 - Slovenia has the worst draft energy and climate plan among all EU member states, according to a report by NGOs that highlights lack of ambition and credibility and absence of a clear path to carbon neutrality by 2050.
In the report Planning for Net Zero: Assessing the draft National Energy and Climate Plans, the European Climate Foundation looked at how credible national goals are, how comprehensive and detailed policy proposals are, and how good the drafting process was.
A graphic from the report (a link to which is at the end of this story)
Slovenia performed dismally across all areas, getting only 3.2 out of a maximum of 100 points; the second worst performed, Slovakia, got 12.5 points, while the best performers got over 40.
Focus, the Slovenian NGO that published the report, said the score showed "a carbon neutral economy will not just happen automatically, it requires being goal-oriented and planning accordingly."
All member states, but Slovenia in particular, must improve the plans in the coming months; the final versions are due by the end of the year.
Slovenia's draft plan was drawn up by the Ministry of Infrastructure. One of its main aims is to reduce carbon emissions by 25% by 2030 compared to 2005.
A PDF of the full report can be found here
May 9, 2019
Environmentalists warn of imminent drinking water pollution for people living in the municipalities of Bled, Gorje, Žirovnica and Radovljica, whose water source is situated at Ovčja jama water protection area in Pernik.
Water originating from Triglav National Park is, or rather, should be, among that with the best quality in the entire country. Nevertheless, water coming from Pernik now has added chlorine since contamination with faeces was discovered several years ago due to the spread of farming on Mežakla and cutting down of the forests.
This April, a passer-by noticed a loaded truck from a construction company from Kranj driving up in Mežakla and unloading what appeared to be construction waste soil into a sinkhole in the otherwise pristine nature of a protected water area.
Bled Environmental Protection Society immediately informed the relevant authorities. The same day an inter-municipal inspector managed to catch the driver in action, and prevent any further dumping of the problematic soil.
When a few days ago the camera team of the national broadcaster headed to the site to take footage of the waste, the owner of the land first almost ran over the journalists with an excavator, then jumped out and scare them away with a pickaxe. The journalists called the police while the landowner and his son allegedly spent the night in a psychiatric ward in Begunje, claiming insanity.
The inspector ordered the problematic waste soil to be removed by the company that brought it there, while special supervision of the company’s activities has also been launched.
The problematic soil, which includes plastic, plaster, adhesives, concrete, asbestos plates and asphalt, according to the Bled Environmental Protection Society, for now remains where it is. However, according to colourant marker studies, conducted by the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering of the University of Ljubljana, water from the problematic area in Mežakla can trickle down the karst floor to the drinking water wells area in a mere 13 hours.
STA, 26 April 2019 - The Farmers' Trade Union staged a protest on Friday, demanding that the government take immediate action, as a growing bear population is causing considerable damage to herds. Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Marko Maver promised farmers that an extraordinary kill measure would be ordered to mitigate the situation.
The protest was staged ten days after the Administrative Court sided with an environmental NGO that challenged the ministry's order to kill 200 bears this year.
The bear population is estimated at 750 in Slovenia, while in the early 1990s it was at 350. Currently, the population expands by 200 bears a year and could reach nearly 1,000 by the end of the year unless 200 are killed or relocated.
Unionist Roman Žveglič said that the ministry staff had listened carefully and promised to launch the measure of extraordinary killing in places where bears were causing the most damage.
Maver told the press that the ministry understood the distress of farmers. "We are all aware of the importance of sustainable management of bear population."
The ministry will moreover appeal the Administrative Court's decision and is drafting "additional documents on why the proposed number is justified," said Maver.
Žveglič said that in case the ministry failed to provide assistance, farmers would stage civil disobedience. "This means that we will start hunting wild animals ourselves, poisoning and shooting them."
At the rally, staged in front of the ministry, Florjan Peternel, a farmer from Ilirska Bistrica (SW), brought with him the remains of calves attacked by bears.
Until recently, his herd had no calves due to bear attacks in 2017 and 2018. "A fortnight ago, calvings started and 15 cows had calves. But yesterday, disaster struck. None survived."
All our stories about bears in Slovenia can be found here
The UK’s Ascent Resources PLC, often in the news in Slovenia for its attempts to increase production at its Petišovci gas field, issued 214.3 million shares earlier this week at £0.0035 (0.35 pence) per share, with the offer bought by a small number of institutional investors. A fell by over 20% after the share issue from the company says the funds raised are intended to reprocess 3D seismic data in relation to the Slovenian project, as well was as to pay for compression equipment, evaluate other regional opportunities and provide additional working capital.
While the company’s shares started the month at 0.20 pence, and jumped to 0.70 pence on April 8, with news that it had received a new permit from ARSOS, the Slovenian Environment Agency, they fell by over 20% after the share issue, and – at the time of writing – stand at 0.40 pence. The shares reached an all-time high of £5.85 in August 2007.
The Petišovci project has been the subject of some controversy and heated online debate, with some investors in the company alleging in correspondence with TSN that corruption at the highest levels of the Slovenian government has prevented the firm from developing its holdings there.
STA, 18 April 2019 - The air quality in Ljubljana today is significantly better than it was decades ago, Nataša Jazbinšek Seršen of the environment department of the Ljubljana city told the press on Thursday. One reason the situation has improved so drastically because increasingly many people cycle rather than drive a car in the city.
Contributing the most to air quality, however, was the development of the city's heating system, Jazbinšek Seršen said.
In 2015, 74% of the population used the system and the goal is to raise this share to 80% by 2024.
In recent years, the concentration of PM10 particles dropped significantly. In 2006, the daily PM10 statutory limit was exceeded 155 times in the Ljubljana city centre, while last year it was exceeded only 51 times, during the heating season.
The main source of PM10 particles are individual furnaces, including those in neighbouring municipalities, as well as fireplaces, which are becoming increasingly popular again.
Another emerging problem is nitrogen oxide, whose level has been rising not only in Ljubljana, but in other European cities as well. Jazbinšek Seršen said the reasons for the increase had not been officially confirmed yet, but experts suspect diesel vehicles.
Ljubljana has been expanding its heating and gas supply networks, and replacing coal with gas. In renovating public buildings, it strives for energy efficiency.
The city is also introducing various measures to discourage the use of small furnaces.
The capital is also encouraging alternatives to cars. By 2020, it would like people to conduct 35% of their journeys on foot, 16% by bicycle, 16% using public transport and 33% by car. "We have already reached the target share for going on foot," said Vita Kontić, another municipal official.
In 2013, about 11% of routes in the capital were made by bicycle and the goal of 16% has probably already been reached, but "we need a survey to confirm this," Kontić added.
Counters on seven locations around the city recorded 3.81 million bike rides in 2016, and 3.74 million in 2017.
Ljubljana boasts 260 kilometres of cycling routes and more than 10,000 bicycle stands. Cycling is also possible on more than 10 hectares of surfaces for pedestrians in the city centre.
The bicycle renting system BicikeLJ also gave a big boost to the cycling culture in the city. The system is expected to get 20 new stations soon.
Currently, it has 59 stations for the 590 bikes available for rent. Since May 2011, more than six million rides were recorded. The system has some 33,500 annual subscribers and a total of 131,000 users.
"Ljubljana boasts the highest number of bike rentals per number of inhabitants in the world," Kontić said.
In 2017, Ljubljana ranked eighth in the Copenhagenize Index of cyclist-friendliest cities in the world. The city eagerly awaits the new ranking to be released this year.
STA, 16 April 2019 - Slovenia is one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world, according to the Good Country Index, compiled by analyst and professor Simon Anholt from the University of East Anglia. It ranks fourth among 153 countries in terms of its positive contribution to the planet and climate, preceded only by Norway, Switzerland and Portugal.
Slovenia did particularly well in the implementation of environmental agreements and reducing the use of substances that cause ozone depletion.
It also got good scores for ecological footprint and exports of dangerous pesticides, and it was close to average in terms of the share of renewable energy sources.
The photo at the top of the page shows the River Soča, a great destination for outdoor sports - read more about it here
The Good Country Index measures how much a country contributes to the planet and the human race, through their policies and behaviours.
Slovenia ranked 16th in terms of its contribution to culture and 21st for its contribution to the global science and technology. It is 45th in terms of its global contribution to the world order and the 47th most important advocate of prosperity and equality.
Slovenia is also 65th in efforts towards health and well-being, and 128th when it comes to promotion of international peace and security.
You can see Slovenia’s results, in more detail, here
STA, 16 April 219 - HSE, the state-owned power utility which owns the Šoštanj coal-fired power station (TEŠ), is looking for a new energy source for TEŠ, according to HSE chairman Stojan Nikolić. He believes burning biomass or waste would be economically viable.
"We know that we have to overhaul the plans for the operations of the Premogovnik Velenje mine and TEŠ. It's been clear for a while that TEŠ will not be able to operate until 2054, as originally planned, both for economic and technical reasons," Nikolić said in an interview with the STA.
But he could not say when the coal-fired power station will be wound down, because it is not clear yet how long the extraction of coal from the Velenje mine, the only source of coal for TEŠ, will be possible.
"My estimate is that until 2040. But we need to set the framework for a fair transition to other activities for the entire coal mining region.
"If we manage to agree on this in the next two or three years, which I'm hoping for, then I think we can still be competitive in the next 15 or 20 years with the production of electricity from coal," he said.
The main challenge faced by HSE as the biggest coal-fired producer of electricity in the country is decarbonisation.
The construction of TEŠ 6, the cutting-edge generator with minimal emissions, was part of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, Nikolić said.
But TEŠ is still unable to cover the costs of the investment, which are being partly covered by HSE. Admitting that TEŠ was struggling, Nikolić said that the management of HSE and TEŠ were looking for possible solutions. Given that the viable coal reserves at the Velenje mine are running out, importing coal is one of the options.
However, given the current market prices of coal and CO2 coupons, importing coal would not be economically viable and the situation will only get worse in the future.
This would be an option only if a supplier was found that would offer coal at the same price as the Velenje mine, which is EUR 2.75 per gigajoule, or 50 cents more at the most, Nikolić said. "That is, if we get all the necessary permits."
The Environment Agency already said importing coal would require no additional permits, but the environment permit would still need to be changed if any other energy source is to be used at TEŠ.
"Burning biomass would probably be economically viable and definitely also burning processed waste, as now we are paying a lot of money to export waste to Austria and Italy."
Burning imported coal is seen as the last resort, but if this would make it difficult for TEŠ to obtain an environmental permit for biomass and waste burning, then the idea to import coal would be abandoned.
Slovenia will have to solve the problem of waste treatment soon, and TEŠ as well as the cement plant in Anhovo are appropriate facilities to burn waste, Nikolić said.
The other area HSE is focussing on is renewable energy sources but the options here are limited. The Drava river can take no more power plants, while recently a political decision was made not to build any on the Mura, he said.
HSE is currently cooperating with GEN Energija in building a chain of hydro power plants on the lower Sava river and has a concession for the plants on the middle Sava.
But Nikolić said they often faced resistance from environmental groups. Any new facility can be controversial, which is why measures must be taken to minimize the environmental impact and take measures to offset its effects, he believes.
The alternative is to import electricity from the countries which still burn coal, such as Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. But this means more green house gas emissions. "What will we do with the intact Mura if temperatures rise for a couple of degrees and there will be no life in it?"
By 2040, two biggest power plants, TEŠ and the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK), generating more than half of electricity in the country, will probably be wound down. "They will not be able to be replaced with just hydro power plants," Nikolić stressed.
STA, 10 April 2018 - Hunger for energy resources is almost as old as humankind, but the reasons behind it vary. The first to drill holes in the north-east Slovenia was the German army, and now the efforts to extract gas are driven by greed and the desire to make quick profit, says Delo in Wednesday's front-page commentary.
Quick profit is what British investors were promising to all those who wanted to invest in the project of exploiting the reserves of gas and some oil in the south-eastern-most part of the country.
They want to drill another 12 or 24 holes and use hydraulic fracturing to extract the gas and oil.
But people are distrustful. They used to have free gas and jobs, but now foreign investors came who only want profit.
They are using all means available to get what they want, including an agency to persuade the public and decision-makers, the British ambassador and a campaign and threats on social media.
Because of appeals, the procedure at the Environment Agency is slow. The agency has issued a permit for a planned gas processing plant, which will not be built anyway, but not yet a permit for hydraulic fracturing, which people oppose.
"The people have the feeling that the area along the Mura river cannot be seen very well from Ljubljana. Indeed, when it rained heavily in the capital, the area bathed in the sun."
People in Ljubljana are making plans to build dams on Mura and are stepping up pressure to exploit the natural resources in the area, although the people there want a green development.
"The gas that is coming out of the holes on its own is enough, the rest is just greed," Delo says in the commentary entitled ‘Gas for the Profit of a Handful’.
All our stories on hydraulic stimulation in Slovenia are here
STA, 9 April 2019 - The environmental NGO Alpe Adria Green (AAG) announced it would not file an appeal against the environmental permit for a gas processing plant in Petišovci (NE). It had already said it would be hard to challenge it since the investor has been insisting it did not entail a stepping up of extraction via hydraulic fracturing.
The permit by the Environment Agency (ARSO), which was reportedly issued at the end of March, comes after the original permit for the refinery, issued in 2015, had been successfully challenged by environmentalists.
The AAG said in Tuesday's press release there would be no appeal as the permit covered only the refinery for raw natural gas, and was related to a modernisation of the existing facility under best available technology (BAT) aimed at reducing the environmental impact.
The NGO explained that the original application the UK investor Ascent Resources had sent to ARSO also covered the controversial technology of hydraulic fracturing, which the AAG believes would bring "catastrophic consequences for the local environment, like in the US".
What will be key as regards the refinery, which would be allowed to process 280,000 cubic metres of natural gas and a tonne of oil per day, is the ongoing environmental impact assessment determining whether the UK company can step up extraction via hydraulic fracturing.
ARSO made the decision that a separate permit procedure for hydraulic fracturing was necessary in March and is being challenged by Ascent Resources, which is also threatening to sue the government for damages.
Operating in a joint venture with Geoenergo, which is co-owned by the Slovenian state-controlled energy companies Petrol and Nafta Lendava, the UK company claims it has invested more than EUR 50m in the project so far. It holds 75% interest in the project, Geoenergo's concession for the Petišovci gas however expires in 2022.
Geoenergo told the STA that the permit meant that only one of the conditions had been met for the old infrastructure to be replaced with a new one to enable the refining of gas, which would be pumped into the national gas network.
Natural gas at the site is currently being extracted at the rate of 25,000 cubic metres a day, the company said, adding that the environmental procedures were under way for renewed stimulation of the existing well.
"When the administrative procedures for the existing wells get finalised, we will not exceed the capacity of the existing infrastructure. Our long-term goal is to cover around 10% of Slovenia's needs for natural gas."
Ascent Resources meanwhile said that the value of its shares had doubled since Monday, when it received the permit from ARSO. It added that Petišovci was a small plant, from which the entire production would go into the Slovenian network.
Executive director Colin Hutchinson stressed that the company still expected a permit for the entire project, including hydraulic fracturing, which according to Ascent Resources does not pose a major risk to the environment.
Total output at the location last month was 334,410 cubic metres for EUR 44,095 in revenue, while in 311,443 cubic metres were extracted in February (EUR 44,513), the company added.
All our stories on this project can be found here