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Montenegro Seeks Stake in Bileća Lake’s Energy Bounty

Montenegro Seeks to Capitalise on Its Share of the Bileća Reservoir Amidst Decades of Unresolved Hydroelectric Potential

Montenegro is set to valorise its portion of the Bileća Reservoir, a man-made lake straddling the border between Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the latter of which hosts four hydroelectric power stations on the lake. Notably, one-fifth of the reservoir lies within Montenegrin territory.

Constructed in 1965 by damming the Trebišnjica River, the Bileća Reservoir serves as a natural demarcation line, extending 11 kilometres to separate Montenegro from Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically the Republika Srpska entity.

While the vast majority of the lake falls within the Bileća municipality in Republika Srpska, a significant 18 percent is located in the Nikšić municipality in central Montenegro.

The waters of the reservoir were harnessed in the 1970s to establish the Trebišnjica Hydroelectric System (HET), benefiting both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia with its energy output.

Key Facts: The Impact of Bileća Reservoir’s Hydro Power

The creation of the Bileća Reservoir, spanning 33 square kilometers, led to the submersion of over five million square meters of Montenegrin territory, resulting in the relocation of several settlements in the Nikšić area.
The Trebišnjica Hydroelectric System, established on the lake, comprises four power plants. Three of these are owned by the Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske, while the fourth’s generated electricity is shared with Croatia’s Hrvatska Elektroprivreda, acknowledging Croatia’s contribution to the system’s construction.
Collectively, these facilities generate approximately 2.7 thousand gigawatt-hours of electricity annually, nearly 90 percent of Montenegro’s total power output in 2022.

Despite numerous attempts by Montenegro in past decades to negotiate its rightful share of this hydroelectric potential with Bosnia and Herzegovina, such efforts have consistently met with failure.

The government of Prime Minister Milo Đukanović is adamant that the time has come for Montenegro to realise this untapped potential. “The government’s stance is that this issue must be brought to the fore, to be resolved most effectively in accordance with international law and practice,” a spokesperson from the Montenegrin Ministry of Energy told Radio Free Europe.

Officials from the Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske (EPRS), which oversees the Bileća Reservoir’s operations, have expressed openness to discussions with Montenegro, confirming to Radio Free Europe their readiness for dialogue.

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