Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) is the only net electricity exporter in the Western Balkans due to its lignite coal and hydropower resources, and supplies its neighbors in the European Union (EU) and the Balkans through the regional electricity market. It is one of the few countries in Europe that has new coal generation under consideration as of 2021.
Hydropower makes up more than half of electricity generation capacity, though small hydro projects have slowed since feed-in tariffs for new small-scale projects were eliminated in 2020. Large scale projects are still moving forward, and BIH has much untapped hydropower capacity as well as wind generation capacity – as of 2021, BIH has three operational wind farms. BIH also purchases natural gas imported from Russia through the single pipeline interconnector with Serbia.
The main energy challenges for BIH are the EU legislative restrictions on the purchase of electricity generated by coal as well as long-standing difficulties with energy efficiency domestically. BIH has the highest energy intensity in the western Balkans, and is working to improve this statistic to increase internal stability and comply with the Energy Communities acquis.
BIH has been a contracting member of the Energy Community (EC) since the organization’s creation in 2006, and works with other members to create a stable and single regulatory framework and market that provides a reliable energy supply and an enabling environment for investment in the electricity and natural gas sectors. The EC has issued many pieces of legislation since 2006 that BIH is obligated to implement; according to its National Energy Strategy, the country’s basic goal is to increase the pace of harmonization for its legislation.
The three regulators in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) — the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC), the Regulatory Commission for Electricity in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FERK), and the Regulatory Commission for Energy of Republika Srpska (RERS) — each play a large role in implementing legislation as they cover functionally separate jurisdictions in the country’s complex power system. FERK and RERS are responsible for regulating generation, distribution, supply, and other retail functions. FERK regulates these functions in the entity Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and RERS regulates these functions in the entity Republika Srpska. SERC is responsible for regulating transmission-related activities, international cross-border trade, and the wholesale electricity market, as well as regulatory authority over the Brcko District, including distribution and supply.
With the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mission, NARUC engages with regulatory agencies in BIH to support the country’s efforts to align its policies with EU requirements. Within the bilateral partnership, BIH regulators work with NARUC on topics such as strengthening regulatory independence, creating communications and public outreach strategies, women’s empowerment in the energy sector, and more.
BIH regulators also participate in NARUC’s regional initiatives in the Europe and Eurasia (E&E) region, such as the Electricity Market Performance Initiative, the Europe and Eurasia Cybersecurity Initiative, and the Improving Service Quality through Investments Initiative.
Communications and Public Outreach
By developing and implementing effective strategies for managing communications and public outreach with all stakeholders, regulatory commissions can better inform the public about their decision-making processes, thereby fostering a more secure and competitive energy market within the country. To support in this effort, NARUC published the USAID/NARUC Communications Strategy Development Guide in 2019, which assisted the three BIH regulatory commissions in drafting their own communications strategies. The regulators have since used these strategies to help them navigate through difficult communications challenges such as rate increases and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, NARUC held a 10-part communications and public outreach training series to give more detailed practicum on five key topic areas: speechmaking, responding to social media, media relations, implementing communications strategies, and creating human-interest stories. In addition to training and hands-on activities, participants discussed the importance of considering local media’s level of knowledge and understanding of the energy industry. Following the trainings, the BIH regulators gained a better understanding of the more proactive role they must play in shaping the media narrative around energy regulation. This lesson informed their relations with the media during the 2021 European energy crisis as the regulators worked to clarify their actions to the press and to customers.
Since 2020, women from the three BIH regulators have participated in NARUC’s Advancing Women Leaders in Energy (AWLE) project. The AWLE project is open to regulators in the E&E region, and has two tracks. The first addresses socio-cultural norms that limit women’s career growth within commissions, while the second builds a new group of mid-career staff ready to move into senior-level positions. BIH regulators have participated in the first track as members of a human resources (HR) working group that meets monthly and prepares improved HR policies and action plans with timelines and goals, including provisions of training, career guidance, and other steps that can be taken to change existing socio-cultural norms. BIH regulators have also joined the second track, wherein women in mid-level careers participate in a six-month program that is designed to improve their skillsets and prepare them to hold leadership positions.
The second track consists of a six-month program, and participants are also coached by a female commissioners/senior staff from U.S. and European commissions. Given strong participation in the AWLE project by women from all three BIH commissions, NARUC will expand the project in 2022 to include a specialized leadership training workshop designed to build skills for career advancement in the BIH energy sector.
Retail Electricity Choice
In 2017, NARUC began to develop three commission-specific Price Comparison Tools (PCTs) for BIH as in advance of retail market opening. With the EU Clean Energy Package’s increased focus on customer choice, retail markets, and price transparency, this project was key to helping participating commissions get ahead of the curve on upcoming EU requirements and further their progress toward EU integration.
Upon completion of the project, the commissions finalized and launched a PCT for all customers in BIH in December 2018. The first of its kind in the region, the application provides customers with instructions for choosing the cheapest supplier in the electricity sector. The application also provides basic information about each of the electricity suppliers, consumer rights and responsibilities, and other educational and useful tips for lowering consumption and energy efficiency. Companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been able to switch suppliers for the first time, and thus saved money on their electricity bills. The PCT website is easy for customers to use and a link to the site is featured prominently on the front page of each regulator’s website.
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Photo Credit: © Boris Stroujko / Adobe Stock
 “Bosnia and Herzegovina - Country Commercial Guide.” International Trade Administration. https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/bosnia-and-herzegovina-energy
 “In a Regional First, Bosnia Launches Electricity Price Comparison Tool.” USAID. https://www.usaid.gov/bosnia/news-information/news/regional-first-bosnia-launches-electricity-price-comparison-tool
 “Bosnian Companies Save Millions By Switching Electricity Suppliers.” USAID. https://www.usaid.gov/results-data/success-stories/bosnian-companies-save-millions-switching-electricity-suppliers-%E2%80%93-now
Project Dates: 2016-Present
State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC)
Regulatory Commission for Electricity in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FERK)
Regulatory Commission for Energy of Republika Srpska (RERS)