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Tiny Kosovo Faces Big Energy Dilema

Almost everyone agrees that Kosovo, home to 1.8 million people and one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, desperately needs more energy. The question is how to generate it without doing more damage to a country already battling terrifying levels of pollution — and facing a tough choice between using the energy sources of the past or betting on those of the future.

At issue is a $1 billion coal-fired plant that Kosovo, backed by the World Bank, has spent more than a decade trying to build. The project is meant to bring two things the country doesn’t have and desperately needs: energy and economic development. For just as long, environmental campaigners and many energy experts have been fighting to block the plant’s construction, arguing that cleaner energy has gotten so much cheaper in recent years that it would be better for the impoverished nation already battling dire levels of pollution to build wind farms and solar panels to meet the energy shortfall.

The World Bank is expected to decide this year whether to help finance the very last coal-fired power plant in its global pipeline or to jettison the notion and embrace a swath of cleaner, alternative energy options. The World Bank’s support is crucial because it would underwrite the majority of the financing for the project. A World Bank spokesperson declined to give a timeline or say which way the bank was leaning.

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