By Olga Rosca
The Belgrade waste-to-energy project in Vinča, which will provide the 1.7 million inhabitants of the Serbian capital with a modern waste management system, has reached financial close. As all the conditions of the financing agreement have now been fulfilled, lenders are starting loan disbursements to support the timely implementation of the project.
The new facility will replace Europe’s largest unmanaged landfill, located just 15 kilometres from the centre of Belgrade and holding more than 10 million tonnes of waste after more than four decades of operation. The site will be fully remediated with a new sanitary landfill, a waste-to-energy plant and a modern facility to process construction and demolition waste.
This landmark €370 million(US$403.21million) project is one of the largest public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Serbia to date and brings private funding and expertise to a public sector project. A total of €290 million in debt is provided by a pool of lenders.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is contributing a €128.25 million syndicated loan, including a loan of €72.25 million for its own account, a loan of €35 million provided by Erste Group Bank AG under the A/B loan structure, and €21 million in concessional finance from the Green Energy Special Fund.
Construction of the new facilities started in October 2019 and continued throughout the recent public health measures in Serbia. The private investors – SUEZ (France), ITOCHU Corporation (Japan) and the European fund Marguerite – made sure that project implementation continued despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19-related restrictions, and all preconditions for financial close have been met successfully.
EBRD Regional Director, Western Balkans and Head of Serbia, Zsuzsanna Hargitai said: “Serbia has responded quickly and decisively to the pandemic and we are heartened that the country is now re-emerging with the same determination and will to succeed. Continuing the work at the Vinča landfill demonstrates the joint priority of the public and private partners and their lenders such as the EBRD to create a clean and healthy environment. The EBRD stands united with other financiers to bring the Vinča project to its successful completion and start of operations as planned. The EBRD is also pleased to support the project implementation by extending technical assistance to the city of Belgrade for the establishment of a PPP monitoring unit and its capacity-building.”
The new landfill will be EU-compliant, with modern waste-management and treatment technology. Replacing the existing landfill will also address a major environmental and health risk, including the pollution of the nearby river Danube.
The 103 MW waste-to-energy facility will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the dependence of Belgrade on fossil fuels. It will have capacity for a volume of approximately 340,000 tonnes per year of household waste, while the construction and demolition waste facility will treat 200,000 tonnes per year.
The new sanitary landfill, with a capacity of 170,000 tonnes per year, will be finalised by the end of 2020, while project completion and full commercial operations are expected in 2022.
EBRD Director, Infrastructure, Europe, Susan Goeransson added: “This is a milestone project which will change people’s lives in Serbia. It will address pressing environmental challenges as well as introducing a new dimension in generating energy. It demonstrates the EBRD’s commitment to vital infrastructure development, which today is more pressing than ever.”
The EBRD financing is part of a wider package including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Austrian development bank Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank (OeEB), with loans of up to €72.25 million and €35 million, respectively.
The total investment is mobilised by Beo Čista Energija Ltd., a special-purpose vehicle formed by the global utility company SUEZ, the Japanese conglomerate ITOCHU and Marguerite, a pan-European equity fund investing in renewables, energy and transport. Beo Čista Energija entered a 25-year PPP with the city of Belgrade in 2017 for the first large-scale environmental infrastructure PPP investment in the Western Balkans region.
The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Serbia. The Bank has invested more than €5.9 billion across 264 projects in the country to date. The EBRD is focusing on supporting private-sector development, improvement of public utility services and on the overall transition towards a green economy.
The Bank also has extensive experience in public-private partnership projects and, for example, has also provided financing for the Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport concession led by Vinci of France.