++Multilateral development banks have supported no fewer than 82 hydropower projects across southeast Europe, including in protected areas, according to a study by CEE Bankwatch Network released today. ++
Radolfzell, Vienna, Prague, Tirana – The study  finds that the number of hydropower projects in the region that enjoy financial support from multilateral development banks  and commercial banks, is even greater than previously known.
Since 2005, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the World Bank Group have extended loans and guarantees totalling EUR 727 million to no fewer than 82 hydropower plants. This includes 37 projects in protected areas like national parks and Natura 2000 sites, or internationally recognised areas of high biodiversity value such as Important Bird Areas.
The EBRD is the biggest known hydropower financier in the Balkans. The bank has supported a total of 61 plants with EUR 126 million, 29 of them inside protected areas, or internationally recognised biodiversity hotspots.
Although the bank has been more cautious in recent years, it is still considering financing new plants. The EBRD is the lead international bank administering an environmental and social study on Skavica cascade. This means that the EBRD may finance the plant if the studies show that the project can be done according to its standards. In that case the loan will be at least EUR 202 million.
The study also registered the biggest single commercial bank investment in the Western Balkans, a EUR 178 million loan from the Turkish IsBank to Ayen Enerji for the Fan river cascade. This project was accompanied by a series of violent conflicts with local communities. Given that the same project company is involved in the Pocem and Kalivac projects in the Vjosa valley, this raises concerns that Turkish financiers will get involved in these too, and, due to their lack of transparency and environmental and social standards, will ignore the destruction of the Vjosa’s vital ecosystems.
“Albania’s 100 percent hydropower dependence is anyway making its energy sector vulnerable to increasingly frequent droughts, so it makes little sense to build yet more dams. Albania urgently needs to diversify to include more wind and solar in its energy mix” says Olsi Nika, Albanian coordinator of the Blue Heart of Europe Campaign.
“The financiers need to take their share of the responsibility and ensure compliance with local and international standards. Reckless investment decisions can ruin hundreds of pristine Balkan rivers for good” adds Igor Vejnović, Bankwatch’s Hydropower Policy Officer and co-author of the study.
“The good news is that more than a thousand planned hydropower plants have no financing yet, so there is still much that can be done to save the Balkans’ unique rivers“, says Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of the EuroNatur Foundation.
“The EBRD and EIB will be updating their environmental and social policies this year. This is a crucial opportunity to tighten their rules and exclude financing for hydropower in sensitive areas“, adds Pippa Gallop, Bankwatch’s Research Co-ordinator and co-author of the study.
For more information contact:
Albanian coordinator of the Blue Heart of Europe Campaign
+55 69 29 44 575
Hydropower Policy Officer
CEE Bankwatch Network
+ 420 274 822 150
CEE Bankwatch Network
+385 99 755 9787
Notes to editors:
 The study covers Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. It examines hydropower plants which have either been built since 2005 or are now being planned. It is an update of Bankwatch’s December 2015 report on this issue, with expanded information on Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria and the role of commercial banks.
A total of 2112 hydropower plants were identified as being planned now or having entered operation since 2005. Most of the plants are only in the planning stage and for 1119 projects we believe that no financing has yet been found. Signed financing was identified for 239 projects and planned financing for 20 more. For 734 greenfield projects we could not trace financing due to the lack of transparency in this field.
‘Plants’ refers to each separate hydropower facility, so one loan or guarantee may cover several plants but still be classed as a single ‘project’ by a financier.
 The EBRD, European Investment Bank and the World Bank Group (in this case the International Financial Corporation and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency).
 Financing for Hydropower in Protected Areas in Southeast Europe (December 2015): https://bankwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/SEE-hydropower-financing.pdf
Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign:
About 2800 new dams are currently projected between Slovenia and Albania. In order to counteract this spate of destruction, ‘EuroNatur’ and ‘RiverWatch’ have launched the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign in cooperation with local partners in the respective Balkan countries. Find out more here: http://www.balkanrivers.net