Energy future hangs on money, not fuel

When asked how fast Yugoslavia will cut oil imports by boosting energy production, officials tend to float off into long explanations. The five-year ''plan'' is no command plan as in the Soviet bloc, but simply a ''resolution'' that may or may not be followed by the country's decentralized market (and political) forces.

The general (and very ambitious) 1981-85 targets are clear: seven percent annual expansion of energy production, with an increase of the 1980 electricity generation of 13,500 megawatts to 21,500 megawatts by 1985, with construction of 10 new hydro and thermal power plants. Domestic coal production, which was 50 million tons last year, is to jump to 82 million tons by 1985. Domestic oil production, 30 million barrels last year, should go to 37 million barrels by 1985.

''It's not a problem of energy,'' explains the assistant secretary for foreign trade, Vinko Mir. ''It's just a problem of money to get (our resources) exploited. Potentially we are full of energy. Our hydropower is only 50 percent used. I read about 30 billion pounds of lignite in Kosovo. We have found some natural gas in the Adriatic that will be exploited, I hope, in two years. We are looking for oil.''

In 1980 Yugoslavia produced only 28 percent of its oil (4.3 million tons) and imported the remaining 11 million tons, with some 40 percent of the imports coming from the Soviet Union at what several Yugoslav sources said were world prices. Ten nuclear power plants are scheduled for the 1990s, with the first due to come on line this year, at a cost of 21 billion dinars ($635 million), Yugoslavia's largest chunk of investment.

Lignite deposits look especially attractive to Austrian, French, Italian, West German, and Swiss investors, which would like to participate in the 14 billion deutsche mark ($5.7 billion) mine development and an accompanying 4,800 -megawatt power station. The bidders were offered a deal involving 50 percent Yugoslav consumption and 50 percent export of the lignite.

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