Solar Park in Nevesinje: "Etmax" Granted Concession, Russian Investment?

Photo: Birn BiH

The construction of a solar park in Nevesinje, for which the concession was granted to the company "Etmax" from Banja Luka, is expected to be financed by a company based in the Russian Federation, according to Impuls's findings.

Written by: Miljan Kovač

That the entry of a "Russian investor" into a partnership with a domestic company holding the concession for a solar power plant in Nevesinje is expected, was confirmed to Impuls by Petar Đokić, the Minister of Energy and Mining of Republika Srpska.

It was precisely Đokić who, along with Siniša Maksimović, the owner of "Etmax," signed a concession and usage contract for solar photovoltaic power plants, or a solar park in the municipality of Nevesinje on March 31 of this year.

As stated at the time, the total power of the panels in the park will be 500 megawatts, and the estimated investment value is 880 million marks. Maksimović later stated that with all components, the investment could reach a value of up to 500 million euros.

However, in addressing the media after signing the contract with the minister, Maksimović could not confirm from which sources he would finance this megalomaniacal project.

"We will use the period in which we will be doing the design to determine which financing model is most acceptable to us, and we have several offers," Maksimović concluded. For now, as stated, he has duly paid a one-time concession fee of seven million marks into the budget of Republika Srpska.

Unlike Maksimović, Đokić seems to see "which financing model" could be most acceptable to Maksimović.

"There is a possibility that a Russian company will be a partner to our company that has concluded a concession agreement for the Nevesinje municipality site.

Negotiations with them will take place in the second half of August," Đokić told Impuls.

Petar djokic top portal

Photo: Top portal

We were unable to contact the director and owner of "Etmax." His secretary briefly informed us that the director is travelling abroad and will be out of the country for several days and that they cannot provide us with any information until his return.

There Are Russians

The story of Russian investment in solar energy production in Nevesinje began in December 2021, after Milorad Dodik, then a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, visited Russia and allegedly met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is about Dodik's infamous visit to the Russian Federation, which is remembered for the fact that no footage from the alleged meeting with Putin was released, nor did anyone, in Russia or in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reveal the topics of the meeting.

However, the Mayor of Nevesinje, Milenko Avdalović, then spoke out, claiming that one of the topics of the meeting was allegedly the construction of a solar power plant near the Nevesinje-Gacko highway at the Kovačica location.

On December 3, 2021, he even announced on the RTRS program that "yesterday, the Government of Republika Srpska granted a concession for a sixty-megawatt solar power plant next to the Nevesinje-Gacko highway, 3-4 kilometres from Nevesinje. President Dodik mentioned this significant investment for Nevesinje during his conversation with Putin," Avdalović said at the time. The news that Russians will build a solar power plant in Kovačica near Nevesinje was reported by several media outlets.

No Russians

However, in the registry of concessions of Republika Srpska, no concession has ever been registered for any "Russian investor." Contradicting the repeated claims of Mayor Avdalović, Đokić is clear that "no Russian company has concluded a concession agreement for that location so far." However, the investment is still expected.

The connection between the concession agreement with "Etmax" and the expected Russian investors, along with the investment value, is also indicated by the project's location itself. Nevertheless, the concession for the construction and use of a solar power plant in the mentioned Kovačica location intended for Russian investors has been granted to the company "Etmax" from Banja Luka.

As planned, the structure of the solar park consists of one power plant with an installed capacity of 200 MW, as well as six power plants of 50 megawatts each.

Ugovor konc 1

For procedural reasons, a separate company has been established for each of these power plants, and the headquarters of all these companies are located at the address: Ramići bb, Banja Luka.

The solar power plants "Nevesinje 2" and "Nevesinje 3" are planned on parcels of the cadastral municipality Žiljevo, a few kilometres from Nevesinje, and they encompass the Kovačica location.

The Russians Aren't Talked About

The fact that someone is very invested in the project on this location is evident from the actions of Mayor Avdalović, who didn't miss the opportunity to speak about the significance of building a solar power plant in Kovačice during the municipality assembly meeting on February 24th this year. Coincidentally or not, this date marked the anniversary of the beginning of the Russian aggression on Ukraine. Avdalović didn't mention the Russians this time. Especially after the start of the aggression on Ukraine, which resulted, among other things, in further political and economic isolation of the Russian Federation as the aggressor country, any business or economic cooperation with partners from that country is globally considered unacceptable – particularly not in this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is inclined towards Moscow's influence. It seems that the Mayor of Nevesinje is aware of this, as he now says, only a year and a half after praising the Russian investment: "I don't meddle in anything that can go on without me," emphasizing that "the municipality doesn't grant concessions or select investors."

"The municipality doesn't grant concessions or select investors. We only provide a positive opinion. Our interest is to have solar power plants, and our stance is that they shouldn't be built on arable land, while we, thankfully, have enough barren and rocky land in Herzegovina," says Avdalović. However, he doesn't deny that Russians were potential partners.

"There was talk about some Russian investors, but now, I guess, it's a bit shaky due to the political situation. There's mention of some new ones, but it's progressing, it will happen," Avdalović says.

He adds that he doesn't know which Russian investor is being referred to, nor does he know who negotiated with whom, and no Russians came to Nevesinje to see where Kovačica is.

However, the concession agreements contradict Avdalović's claim that the construction of solar power plants is only approved on non-arable land. From the mentioned cadastral parcels in the contracts, it's clear that many of them relate to fields and pastures in the most fertile part of the Nevesinje field, and deforestation is also planned.

ugovor konc 2

Furthermore, there were properties on Kovačica, including the barns of the "Planinsko dobro" company from Nevesinje, until this enterprise ended up in bankruptcy through a series of intrigues investigated by law enforcement, and its assets were sold off at a nominal price. Additionally, the realization of the solar power plant project in Kovačica will show whether the assets of this once-successful company will also end up as a bonus for solar power plant investors.

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