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Power, transport collaborations drive green efforts

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-12-24 09:34
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Employees install photovoltaic panels at a solar power plant in Kaposvar, Hungary. The project by the China National Machinery Import and Export Corp began in June 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

BERLIN-With a number of power and transport projects built in recent years, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative is playing a positive role in Europe, providing clean power and high-quality infrastructure to locals.

Being benefit-sharing, environment-friendly and high-quality, the BRI projects bring tangible benefits to Europe.

Constructed by China National Machinery Import & Export Corp, the Kaposvar 100 megawatt photovoltaic power plant is Hungary's largest solar power station with total investment of around 100 million euros ($121 million).

CMC invested equity capital while Bank of China provided financing. The project's funds were raised from the market, said Meng Fanye, director of the project.

CMC's investment will be amortized with electricity sales in the future, Meng said, adding that the station will contribute a total of 2 million euros in taxes to local and state governments.

A 180-kilometer highway linking the port of Bar on Montenegro's Adriatic coast to landlocked neighboring Serbia is another example. The project carried out by a Chinese company only has a 2-percent interest rate, a 20-year repayment schedule and a six-year grace period-all extremely favorable by international standards.

Rejecting "debt bondage" accusations, Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said in June 2019 that his country did not provide land as collateral for loans, adding that the Export-Import Bank of China offered the best terms in the global financial marketplace at that time.

"Absolutely nothing of what is speculated is true... there is no debt bondage," said Markovic, adding that the investor is Montenegro, not China or any other country.

Since the very beginning of the BRI some seven years ago, environmental protection has become a top priority. In April 2019, China said that the BRI must be green and sustainable, and deliver high-quality growth for all.

BRI projects in Europe use cutting-edge technologies and fully comply with European Union standards.

Stanari, a small town in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the site of the Stanari thermal power plant-the first China-built coal-fired power plant in Europe-which began operating in 2016.

Stanari is rich in lignite, a low-quality coal that is highly polluting if burned in a conventional way. In 2016, China's Dongfang Electric Corp introduced an energy-saving and emission-reducing technology at the plant.

Now production is efficient, said Aleksandar Milic, technical director of the plant, adding that in controlling emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and dust, the facility meets or even exceeds EU standards.

In Croatia, the Peljesac Bridge project showed that major infrastructure can have limited impact on local ecosystems if the highest environmental standards are practiced.

The main environmental challenges of the project are preserving local oyster farming while protecting dolphins in the surrounding waters from construction noise.

Niksa Orlandic, a Croatian environmental engineer with the project, said engineers with China Road and Bridge Corp managed to have only a slight impact when using pile drivers thanks to the use of noise-canceling technology.

"The construction of the bridge has no negative effect on the mariculture of the bay, which is known for oyster farming and whitefish breeding," Orlandic said.

In Europe, where regulations are among the strictest in the world, the BRI projects are in full compliance with local standards and international practices.

Lu Shengwei, a representative with China Road and Bridge Corp, said the company hired Croatian law firms and consulting companies in order to adapt to EU regulations regarding infrastructure projects.

"We spent hundreds of hours studying the details here. Based on our rich experience in infrastructure around the world, we have raised our project standards and now all of them have reached EU standards," Lu said.

The Chinese contractor entrusted local supervising companies to oversee quality control, environmental protection and legal issues.

Oleg Butkovic, Croatian minister of maritime affairs, transport and infrastructure, expressed his satisfaction that the project is going on as planned when visiting the site last month.

After four years of operations, the Stanari TPP has become an iconic project in the town. It is also considered a signature project within the framework of cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries as well as the BRI.

The power plant has put Stanari on the map. The operation has attracted peer companies from more than 30 countries to visit, according to Hu Yang, Dongfang Electric's operation and maintenance manager for the project.

"We are showcasing ... Chinese companies' capabilities in project design, construction, operation and maintenance in an arena of the highest level," Hu said.

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