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
STA, 6 April 2019 - Around 10,000 trees were planted by more than 670 volunteers at several locations in Slovenia on Saturday as part of a campaign launched by the state-owned SiDG forestry company last year to help Slovenian forests recover from several disasters they were hit by in recent years.
This is the second year that 10,000 new tress were planted as part of the campaign and the organisers hope this will become an annual event. In October 2018, some 400 volunteers took part, so this year's turnout was a pleasant surprise.
School children, students, teachers, employees from several Slovenian companies and other volunteers planted spruce trees, larch, beech trees, cherries, pears and hazelnut trees in the forests around Kočevje, Ravnik pri Logatcu, Lovrenc na Pohorju, and Postojna.
Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Aleksandra Pivec joined the teem in Lovrenc. "Such campaigns are a good way to raise awareness of the importance of forests," she said.
The minister is particularly happy that many different institutions and generations joined the project. She would like forest owners to also help rejuvenate the forests.
"By rejuvenating the forests that have been damaged, we are helping forests to preserve their many roles which are crucial for our lives," said Zlatko Ficko, the head of the SiDG.
The most volunteers, 240, gathered in Kočevje. More than a hundred of them were scouts.
The Rejuvenate the Forests initiative 2019 has been backed by the Agriculture Ministry, the National Forest Service, the Nature Conservation Institute, the Association of the Slovenian Catholic Scouts and the Scout Association of Slovenia.
It is also a part of the annual Day For Change campaign organised today by the Slovenian Philanthropy, encouraging people to stand up against discrimination and become volunteers at least for a day.
Slovenian forests suffered substantial damage in recent years. In February 2014 they were hit by an ice storm, which led to a bark beetle epidemic, while windthrow struck at the end of 2017.
In the last five years, more than 16 million cubic metres of trees or 65% of Slovenian forests were damaged in natural disasters. Some 95% of the damaged forests will regenerate by itself, while in the remaining 5% of the areas tree planting will be required.
Since the 2014 ice storm, some 1.5 million tress were planted in 600 hectares of privately-owned and state forests. In state-owned forests, 850,000 trees will be planted this year.
STA, 8 April 2019 - In the latest development in the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci (NE), UK investor Ascent Resources has obtained the permit for a planned gas processing plant. However, according to Delo, things are not looking good for the investor in the separate permit procedure for hydraulic fracturing.
The decision by the Environment Agency (ARSO), which the paper says was issued on 28 March, comes after the original permit for the refinery, issued in 2015, had been successfully challenged by environmentalists.
However, key for the refinery, which would be allowed to process 280,000 cubic metres of natural gas and a tonne of oil per day, will be the ongoing environmental impact assessment determining whether the UK company can step up extraction via hydraulic fracturing.
The refinery permit is still subject to a potential appeal by Alpe Adria Green, but the NGO's president Vojko Bernard told Delo it would be hard to challenge it, since the investor has been insisting the refinery did not entail a stepping up of extraction via hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
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 Petišovce gas however expires in 2022.
All our stories on Ascent Resources can be found here
STA, 2 April 2019 - The Slovenian provider of energy and sustainable solutions Resalta will get an EUR 6m capital injection from the European Investment Fund (EIF) and private investors. The resources will help the company make a transition from a start-up to a major international energy provider.
Resalta and the EIF, whose main shareholder is the European Investment Bank (EIB), signed the investment agreement on Tuesday, striving to further develop the company's independent energy services and renewable energy solutions, thus investing into a positive impact on Slovenia and the EU's economy as well as on the environment.
The investment will be guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the key part of the Investment Plan for Europe, also known as the Juncker Plan.
Half of the recapitalisation amount will be provided by a joint instrument of the EIF and the Slovenian Development Bank (SID), with the other half provided by the Bulgarian BlackPeak Capital investment fund and private investors.
Resalta was established by three Slovenian major companies - home appliances maker Gorenje, gas wholesaler Geoplin, and the capital's public utility company Energetika Ljubljana - and is present in eight markets, including Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Italy, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, doing business with individual clients, companies, and municipalities.
The company endeavours to assist its clients in reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption, saving on energy-related costs.
The EIF pointed out that the company has developed and implemented solutions that saved 300GWH of electric energy, thus reducing carbon emissions by 30,000 tons per year, which is equal to planting 3,400 hectares of forest.
Contributing to the City of Ljubljana's project, Resalta also reduced carbon emissions in a number of the municipality's facilities and was given the European Energy Service Award by the European Commission for this achievement.
The company's CEO Luka Komazec said that the investment was an important stepping stone to Resalta's development, helping them develop new energy service projects and transforming the region into a more eco-friendly environment.
STA, 2 April 2019 - The coal-fired power plant in Šoštanj (TEŠ) has been given the green light to import coal, the public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported on Monday evening. The Environment Agency (ARSO) decided that TEŠ requires no new environmental permit for mixing the lignite from Velenje with imported coal.
According to the document obtained by TV Slovenija, TEŠ plans to have 1,200 tonnes of coal transported to Šoštanj by train every day.
The coal is to be mixed with the lignite from the near-by Velenje mine, so locals are concerned that the greenhouse gas emissions will increase as a result.
But ARSO says the change will have no impact on the health of the local population, which is why no new environmental permit is required, TV Slovenija reported.
According to Environment Minister Simon Zajc, the fact that the viable coal reserves at the Velenje mine are running out is an additional reason why TEŠ should be shut down before its lifespan expires.
Valter Kolar of the Šoštanj Civil Initiative said ARSO had not asked the local community for their opinion at all.
The power utility HSE, which owns TEŠ as well as the country's sole coal mine in Velenje, said that TEŠ would continue to be powered by lignite from Velenje while importing coal is only an alternative option for the time being.
TEŠ confirmed this for the STA today, saying it was not looking for a coal supplier and that importing coal was neither in its annual nor mid-term plans.
According to HSE, importing coal would be costlier than the lignite from Velenje and would raise TEŠ's annual costs by some EUR 20m a year.
TEŠ said it had only requested for a permit for importing coal at the end of last year to reduce the risks to the stable functioning of the power plant in the future.
In line with its valid environmental permit from 2010, the power plant is allowed to produce electricity by burning exclusively lignite from the Velenje mine.
Any plans for a change in operations must be reported to ARSO. If the change is minor, a new environmental permit is not necessary but if major changes are planned, a new permit is required.
The former environment minister, Jure Leben, said in early February that before issuing a permit for TEŠ to import coal, it should be determined whether those in charge of building the controversial unit six, TEŠ6, had misled the public about the quality and quantity of coal reserves at the Velenje mine.
The Velenje municipality said today that TEŠ should burn exclusively coal from the area, which was what had been asserted when TEŠ6 was being built.
The municipality is shocked by ARSO's decision allowing the imports of coal without any additional permits.
Units five and six were never not meant to be in operation at the same time, but now unit 5 is also running despite lower efficiency and bigger coal consumption, which has a negative impact on the environment, the municipality said.
If the coal from the Velenje mine was used more prudently, there would be no problems now, it added.
STA, 27 March, 2019 - Simon Zajc, the new minister of the environment and spatial planning, is taking over a department that he has gotten to know from the inside during his six-month stint as state secretary. But he has little previous experience with environmental issues.
Zajc, 38, told MPs during his committee hearing that he would continue projects initiated by his predecessor Jure Leben, who was seen as the most proactive environment minister in years.
He has listed changes to construction and housing laws, the environment protection act and waters act as his main priorities alongside a long-term climate strategy and improved waste management.
An opponent of fracking who has spoken against power stations on the river Mura, he nevertheless refrained from clearly opposing or endorsing plans to build a waste incineration plant beyond saying that "every country must take care of its own waste".
Zajc has been in top-level politics since 2014, when he was elected MP on the ticket of the newly-established Miro Cerar Party (SMC), later renamed the Modern Centre Party; before the formation of the SMC in mid-2014, he had been a member of the Youth Party (SMS).
In parliament he was deputy chair of the Agriculture, Forestry and Food Committee and his only major legislative proposal was legalisation of small-scale marijuana growing for personal consumption and sale. He told MPs earlier this week that he still stood by his proposal.
Before entering politics, Zajc managed car fleets for corporate clients, headed his own video and mobile app company, and hosted events.
He also performed as stand-up comedian and wrote a sex and relationship advice column for the Slovenian edition of Cosmopolitan magazine.
STA, 25 March 2019 - Simon Zajc pledged to complete the work set out by his predecessor at the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning in his hearing on the parliamentary committee on Monday. He listed updates to construction and housing laws, a reform of water law and tackling the waste management as his priorities.
Zajc, who has so far served as one of the two state secretaries at the ministry and is nominated to replace his boss Jure Leben as minister, told the MPs that the ministry would have to keep up the pace and the manner of work set out under Leben's guide.
"Over the past six years we were working intensively, identified problems, set the priorities, the timeline and activities. If you let me, we will resume work at once," said the 38-year-old nominee, who is expected to be appointed minister at the plenary session on Wednesday after being backed by ten votes in favour and five against in today's hearing.
He said the goal was to implement key changes by the end of 2020. This is because when Slovenia holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2021, tasks at home would be sidelined.
Zajc's first task at hand, if appointed, would be to present as early as next week an updated construction bill. Consultation will be held with all deputy factions and local communities, he promised.
The next step would be to update housing legislation, to make housing more accessible to young people. The Housing Fund would build solely rental flats, non-profit rent would be replaced by cost rent and the state would guarantee for loans for young families.
The environmental conservation act would be amended, including by introducing a fund to tackle brownfield areas and securing reserve funds for risk activity companies in case of a bankruptcy. A new water bill would be submitted to parliament in the first half of the year.
Zajc said that new waste management legislation would have to be passed by the end of the year. Packaging fees would be paid by all packaging waste producing companies and they would have to report four times rather than once a year.
The requirements for packaging waste disposal companies would be restricted to do away with all anomalies, the final result of which Zajc said would be a single efficient provider.
The nominee also promised a continuation of the fight against plastics, and amendments to several pieces of legislation, including that governing disaster relief and that implementing the constitutional right to drinking water.
Another major task would be a long-term climate strategy. "The country's goal must be to become carbon neutral by the mid-century," Zajc said, listing a number of questions that would have to be answered in the process.
Asked about waste incineration, Zajc said that "each country has to take care of its waste", calling for the country's self-sufficiency when it comes to end waste management. A public debate on an incineration plant has been conducted and Zajc has asked municipalities' association to check whether any of them is interested in having such a plant.
Zajc does not think there is a need for a new facility, because it is possible to adapt the exiting ones. If the country opted for an incineration plant, the government would have to determine the amount and type of waste to be thermally treated, the best technology would have to be applied, and monitoring would have to be conducted regularly with the data accessible to everyone. The plant would have to be non-profit as well.
If appointed, Zajc will succeed Leben, who resigned after becoming embroiled in allegations of wrongdoing related to the Koper-Divača rail project that he was responsible for as state secretary at the Infrastructure Ministry in the previous term.
Most of the committee members regretted that Leben had to resign, having "set out things well", as Boris Doblekar from the opposition Democrats (SDS) put it, but they wished Zajc successful work.
SDS MP Zvonko Černač hailed Zajc's willingness to cooperate, but said that past experience testified that even if concrete solutions and improvements had been agreed with the ministers in the past these were not passed if put forward by the opposition or the SDS party.
This is why he urged the nominee to apply a "more cunning mechanism to file these proposals through the coalition parties or the supra-coalition party". The latter reference was to the Left.
STA, 12 March 2019 - The UK-based company Ascent Resources has announced it will appeal against the Slovenian Environment Agency's decision that it will have to seek an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its gas extraction project in the far north-east of the country.
"The partners plan to appeal the decision within the prescribed 15-day period," the UK company has said as quoted by Your Oil and Gas News portal.
The key ground for appeal will be that all six expert government agencies which the agency is required to consult as part of the screening assessment process concluded that no EIA should be required on the basis that the project to re-stimulate two currently producing wells was not likely to have significant effects on the environment.
The Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) failed to follow the findings even though bound to so, having not undertaken any independent assessment of the likely impacts of the environment, Ascent Resources said in the post.
Ascent Resources has been extracting and selling untreated natural gas from the Petišovci field in cooperation with its Slovenian partner Geoenergo, but the partners have been unable to get permits for hydraulic fracturing and for a new gas processing plant due to repeated appeals by environmentalists.
The company said that the partners had applied for the screening assessment in May 2017, so they also plan to challenge ARSO's latest decision for not being issued within the two-month period prescribed by Slovenian law. "The failure to comply with other provisions of Slovenian law as well as breaches of EU law will be detailed in the appeal."
Meanwhile, Ascent Resources welcomed ARSO acknowledging that the proposed project cannot be regarded as "fracking" as defined by the European Commission in its recommendation in 2014.
Ascent Resources has been working with legal experts in Slovenia and London to prepare claims for damages as "a result of the numerous and continued failures and delays by ARSO and the ministry to comply with Slovenian and EU law".
It said that "any potential claim for damages will take into account the amount invested by Ascent in the project, currently in excess of EUR 50m, and future expected profits from the development of the field which is estimated to be a multiple of the existing investment".