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ContourGlobal proceeds with Kosovo power plant despite World Bank rejection

PRISTINA, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Power company ContourGlobal will proceed with plans to build a 500 megawatt (MW) coal-fired plant in Kosovo despite the World Bank’s decision not to back the project.

The World Bank on Wednesday said it would not support the Balkan country’s first major energy project in more than two decades because it would use coal rather than renewable fuels.

Contour Global CEO Joseph Brandt was undaunted by the announcement.

“The World Bank statement has no impact whatsoever on this project. We are moving rapidly to start the project,” Brandt told Reuters.

He said the London-listed power company was in the process of securing financing as well as an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the project, which he expects to break ground early next year.

“We expect the financing package to come from a mix of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and export credit agencies,” Brandt said, adding that ContourGlobal aims to bring in a minority partner in the project over the course of construction.

Kosovo is struggling with power shortages and about 90 percent of its power is produced by two ageing coal-fired plants considered to be among the worst polluters in Europe.

Its government has endorsed the ContourGlobal project and said it would help to lift Kosovo’s economic growth to 5-6 percent in the coming years, up from about 4 percent in 2017.

“The replacement of the two highly polluting power plants will come with state-of-the-art environmental controls,” Brandt said, adding that the project would be fully compliant with EU directives for large combustion plants.

Opponents of the plans say the proposed plant could lock Kosovo into a future powered by lignite, the dirtiest form of coal, while increasing the price of electricity and becoming a long-term burden on the country’s economy. (Reporting by Maja Zuvela and Fatos Bytyci Editing by David Goodman)