Law meant to speed up hydro plant construction voted down
At the first reading of the bill, which also deals with concessions for the use of the planned power stations, the motion was supported by the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) in addition to DeSUS.
Presenting the motion on Wednesday, Hršak said he would like to facilitate the construction of the power plants after he had waited in vain for support from the senior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) for eight months.
Rejecting suggestions that this was a pre-election move, he noted that the bill proposed that concessions for the ten plants be directly awarded to Srednjesavske Elektrarne, a subsidiary of the power utility HSE, for 50 years.
The concessionaire would pay the state 10% of the revenue from the electricity it has sold every year.
Hršak noted that under the national spatial plans the first three of the ten power stations, spanning from Tacen near Ljubljana to Suhadol, some 50 km east of the capital, should be completed by 2021.
The bill also provided a financial plan for the investment, under which funds would be secured by the water and climate funds. Additional funds could be secured from the budget.
Tomaž Lisec of the SDS said that the bill was a must if Slovenia wanted to "speak seriously" about energy self-sufficiency and renewable sources.
The SDS wanted the bill to be passed in the current term as every month hydro power stations in the middle Sava are not in operation brings losses for the budget.
Zvonko Lah of the NSi too pointed to the need to construct the planned power stations fast, while admitting that the proposal was a bit of a departure from the established practice.
Marjana Kotnik Poropat of DeSUS noted that Slovenia had committed to producing at least 25% of its entire energy from renewables by 2020, adding that the bill contributed to this objective.
Violeta Tomić of the opposition Left meanwhile rejected the bill, and noted that the investment on the middle Sava was at a standstill only because a concession contract had not been signed yet.
Igor Zorčič of the SMC admitted that the project had gotten stuck due to the concession contract, but the government was making an effort for it to be signed.
Zorčič said the bill envisaged the transfer of concession that had already been awarded to a different person or re-awarding it, which the SMC finds disputable and in violation of law.
The newspaper Delo reported on Tuesday that the bill was opposed by environmentalists, who are convinced that it would violate regulations.
They want a comprehensive environmental impact assessment to be carried out, as the middle Sava criss-crosses a number of sites belonging to the Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas.
According to Delo, the national Nature Conservation Institute has also been critical of the bill because there was no public debate on it.